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Trump to suspend immigration temporarily, Indian IT industry awaits details

The Indian IT services industry is awaiting details of US President Donald Trump’s impending move to suspend immigration, in light of the pandemic.

Though details of the executive order are awaited, the IT industry is not likely to be affected much in the near term, given that mobility is already restricted. However, any sweeping change in regulations could affect moving human resources from India to the US over the medium term, according to industry sources.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

No further details were available regarding the proposed executive order.

“Nasscom seeks details on the Executive Order of the President of the United States suspending immigration temporarily,” industry body National Association of Software and Services Companies tweeted in response.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, quoting US government sources, that “the order wouldn’t make substantial changes to the current US policy. Even without an executive order, the administration has already all but ceased nearly every form of immigration… It is not expected to address the removal of immigrants already in the US or the visa renewal process”.

The Centre is also waiting to see the order itself, before commenting. Sources at the Ministry of External Affairs said that while the move is sudden, they remain confident of it being a temporary measure.

“We remain confident that the US legislation won’t be detrimental to India’s long-time policy on free movement of people. This had been pointed out during the last set of talks with the US State Department,” said an official.

Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at LawQuest, said: “Indian IT firms are poised to file thousands of petitions to get workers into the US by October 1. Petitions have to be filed before June 30 for the same.”

Until Trump’s executive order takes shape, IT firms should continue to file petitions to avoid penalties or issues from the US government, in case the H-1B programme does not undergo any change.

“In case of any change, a small cross-section of people will be affected,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and CEO of Greyhound Research. Some IT industry experts also feel the business case of H-1B visas no longer exists amid growing unemployment in the US.

“There is no business case for H-1B visas because talent is available in abundance given the joblessness rate in the US. Demand for immigration will resurface depending on economic revival,” said Nitin Kumar, CEO of Appnomic.

Amid the pandemic, unemployment claims in the US have risen exponentially. According to NBC News, almost 22 million Americans have filed for initial unemployment benefits, as of last week.

Trump has largely made good on his poll promise of “Make America Great Again” by tightening immigration policies, including H-1B work visas.

With the lockdown in place and several client projects shutting down, many Indians on H-1B visas have also either lost jobs or are stuck in the US.

For Indians with H-1B visas expiring soon, the US gave a breather last week, when US Department of Homeland Security said the people could file an application for extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS).

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to accept and process applications and petitions, and many of our forms are available for online filing.

Trump’s tweet on Tuesday made no reference to existing immigrants in the US. It was also unclear whether the executive order would apply retrospectively.

―Business Standard

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