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    The likely consequences of Donald Trump's visa restrictions for foreign workers

    Synopsis

    Recently, Trump announced a temporary suspension of foreign work visas. Kuwait too is in the process of enacting similar legislation. This then raises certain important questions as to whether the growing pandemic makes borders largely redundant and what impact will Trump’s actions have on the industries, individual employees & the larger Indo-US relations?

    Agencies
    President Trump is a known critic of globalization and these actions may only further add to a world with walls.
    By Vinod Subramanian

    Coronavirus has erected walls between nations and this has ensured that only the virus has been able to penetrate through them. Recently, US President Donald Trump announced that the two-month moratorium on issuance of H-1B (skilled workers), H4 (for dependents of H1B), H2B (for seasonal workers in the landscaping and hospitality industry), L1 (intra company transfers), L2 (dependants of L1), J1 (Students) will be extended till December 2020. Kuwait too is in the process of enacting a similar legislation to make the prospects of hiring foreign workers stringent. This then raises certain important questions as to whether the growing pandemic makes borders largely redundant and what impact will Trump’s actions have on the industries, individual employees and the larger Indo-US relations?

    Negligible impact
    Announcing the restrictions on movement of natural persons, the White House said that between February and May 2020, the unemployment rate in the United States surged to a little more than 13%. The US economy is in deep trouble and the revival is something that will take time. In such a situation, this moratorium on the processing of new visa applications may not have any meaningful impact.

    Those already in the US with valid visas and those who have already been issued visas will not be impacted by this executive order. The Migration Policy Institute has predicted that up to 2,19,000 workers may be impacted by this order throughout the world. As far as H1B visas are concerned, about 70% of the beneficiaries are Indian nationals. Various business entities have already stopped hiring and may not start the process of hiring any time soon.

    Adding to the woes of the Indian service sector
    However, this will not bring any respite to the Indian service industry which is continuing to suffer due to the pandemic. The lockdown and the lack of demand has ensured that almost 30,000 employees in the IT sector have lost their jobs and as per reports, another 60,000 may be asked to go.

    The H1B visa is also critical for the Indian service industry which exports services worth USD 29.6 billion (in 2018) to the US.

    In normal circumstances, this would have a massive blow to the Indian economy. However, the coronavirus pandemic may just soften this blow as mentioned before and under circumstances where there is no clarity on international travel, will individuals want to travel to the US which has been the worst affected nation?

    If one were to look into demands for flight services between India and United Arab Emirates, wherein Indian nationals forced the government to permit flight services between the two nations, lest they lose their jobs, the fear of flying during a pandemic appears to be only secondary in the fight for economic survival. Hence, the same may be juxtaposed in the case of US and one can conclude that the pandemic may not have any effect on the demand for H-1B visas.

    The employers may adopt short term measures to tide over the situation and utilize digital technologies to manage existing projects and look for fresh orders. However, this may work only in the short term as there is nothing that works better than face to face interactions and on-site work.

    Trump’s initiative clearly appears to be political in nature, in view of the upcoming Presidential polls in November. Any further extension of this ban will not only have long-term consequences on individual employees and industries but also the growing Indo-US Relations.

    Turbulence in the Indo-US Relations
    It was only in February 2020 that India and the US signed the Global Strategic Partnership Agreement. However, the economic issues continue to frustrate the designs of the two leaders who have agreed to take this relationship forward.

    In a series of setbacks such as the withdrawal of benefits under the GSP to India or the H1B visa issue, the US comes across as an unstable ally.

    President Trump is a known critic of globalization and these actions may only further add to a world with walls.

    The two nations are yet to sign a Free Trade Agreement and should seize this opportunity to lay a new economic world order.

    Reversing brain drain
    The government should also seize this opportunity and spearhead various projects such as the Smart City project, Skill India mission and become a world leader in Technology.

    Many of these projects need to be implemented whole heartedly and the Indian private sector will play a critical role in ensuring its success.

    States such as Telangana have been in the forefront in ensuring that the process of sustainable development and Artificial Intelligence go hand in hand. The state government has launched a vision document to incorporate new and emerging technologies in the day to day governance.

    The government should use this opportunity to reverse the brain drain from India and use Indian talent in a new India which is also ‘Aatmanirbhar’.

    Finally, it can be said that Indian nationals are not seizing any American jobs. There is a skill mismatch vis a vis Indians and it is the larger migrant community that has successfully nurtured Facebook and Google and many other companies. The solution lies in not sealing the physical boundaries but in ensuring a collaboration between the Silicon Valley in the US and the Millennium City in India amongst others.

    The author is a foreign policy analyst working with an edu-tech firm and has previously worked in leading organisations in Geneva

    (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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    15 Comments on this Story

    Aditya30 days ago
    To be honest, an average american doesn't support the h-1b visa nor do they want their jobs taken by foreigners. All these articles are pure propaganda to continue peddling the most abused visa in the world to fill coffers of body shops like TCS, Cognizant, Wipro, infosys etc. Stay in your home country, Indians.
    Subbu India30 days ago
    None of Trump's reaction is permanent in nature. He can change it any time.
    Guru Kalle31 days ago
    It is time for comprehensive immigration reform in USA.USA is a place for innovation,merit,entrepreneurship, infrastructure,growth.US is a place where companies like Amazon,Tesla are started.
    H1B visas were designed to be a source of temp labor for some contract jobs.However the way they were utilised, it became a source of cheap labor replacing quality employees with out any regard to merit,seniority etc.It started affecting US citizens as well.Hence the need for comprehensive immigration reform which would benefit merited immigrants also
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