H-1B visa entry ban: what lies ahead for Indian IT professionals?

Many of the H-1B visa applicants prevented from entering the U.S. by the president’s recent proclamation are Indian. We look at what the ban means for Indian IT professionals

H-1B visa Statue of Liberty America

U.S. President Donald Trump is reserving U.S. jobs for U.S. residents, recently extending through the end of the year a ban on some foreign workers entering the country using H-1B visas. Indian IT professionals who had intended to work there will need to explore other options to find employment, including upskilling, reskilling, or moving to other countries.

Indian IT workers have been the main beneficiaries of the H-1B visa: Between October 2018 and September 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a total of 3,88,403 H-1B visas (including transfers and renewals), of which India’s share stood at 71.7 percent. The number of new H-1B visas is capped at 65,000 with an added 20,000 for highly skilled people with a master’s degree from a US university.

The H-1B visa is issued when a US employer can show that the required skills cannot be found within the country, and hence need to be imported. The visa is offered for an initial period of three years and can be renewed for an additional three years.

Indian financial analyst CRISIL reports that Indian IT firms have gradually reduced their dependence on H-1B visas because of increasing denial rates – from 6 percent in 2016 to 32 percent in 2019, and 39 percent in the first half of 2020. Suspension of H-1B visas will have only a marginal impact on the operating profitability of Indian IT firms this fiscal year, it says, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has had a much more severe impact.

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