The Trump Administration’s recent announcement to suspend work visas–H1B (visas for high skilled professionals), H4B (spouses of H1B visa holders) and L1 Visas (intra company transfers) till the end of the year, has left many professionals on H1B visas high and dry at least for the time being. The decision evinced strong reactions from a number of quarters (apart from employment visas, the US President has also put a pause on the issuance of Green Cards).
Sunder Pichai, CEO of Google, who is of Indian origin himself, was scathing in his criticism of the Trump Administration’s proclamation arguing, that the US economy in general, and the country’s tech sector in particular, has benefitted from its immigration policy (an estimated 2/3rd of H1B visa holders in the US are occupied in ‘computer related’ occupations).It would be pertinent to point out, that Google had submitted an estimated 6,500 H1B applications in 2019
Pichai’s views were echoed by the Chief of US Chamber of Commerce Thomas Donohue
“Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses, and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,
Democrat Presidential Candidate, and Former Vice President, Joe Biden in a digital town hall meeting on July 1, 2020, emphatically stated that he would reverse the Trump administration’s recent order, if voted to power, and also made the point, that he would follow a fundamentally different immigration policy from Donald Trump
Factors responsible for Trump Administration’s proclamation
The key propelling factor for the Trump Administration’s decision was the rising unemployment in the US, in the aftermath of the covid 19 pandemic (for the month of May, it was estimated at a little over13% which was lower than the unemployment rate in April 2020 which was closer to 15%).
Members of the Trump Administration have stated, that the suspension of non immigrant visas will open up over 5,0000 jobs for Americans. The decision was very much in line,with Trump’s thrust on ‘America First’, which according to many commentators played a decisive role in the mercurial Trump performing well in the swing states. Some of the important swing states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin are in the Mid-West, and are referred to as the ‘Rust belt’ (this region now desolate, due to a combination of factors, was once booming and referred to as a ‘Factory Belt’ in the United States).
Indian official reaction
One country, which is likely to be hit significantly by the Trump Administration’s recent proclamation is India. As of 2019, out of the 3,88,403 visa holders a whopping 72% were Indians. Out of 3,75,000 temporary visa holders and green card holders who will be unable to enter due to the Trump Administration’s announcement a large number are Indians (as a result of the US President’s latest announcement many families have been separated from each other).
The official reaction from India to the Trump Administration’s recent proclamation was guarded. The MEA Spokesperson while commenting on the decision did state, that it will impact the movement of skilled professionals who have made positive contributions to US society. Indian IT Industry body NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service companies) has dubbed Trump’s recent decision as ‘misguided’, the organization also stated that Indian IT companies have also been employing American and contrary to popular perception it is not just India which will be the loser.
Canada’s immigration Policy
In recent years, due to the new regulations brought about by the Trump Administration with regard to student visas and work visas, Canada has become an attractive destination for Indian students, as well as professionals (Canada has eased out student visas, and also work visas for Science, Technology, Engineering and Management, STEM professionals). In the first four months of 2020, Indians accounted for nearly 1/4th of the total individuals (74000) who were granted Permanent Residency.
Canada has introduced the Global Stream Program, under the Global Skills Strategy program, which makes it easier for companies to recruit talented professionals (through this program, high skilled workers receive a visa within two weeks). A number of US IT companies like Amazon, Facebook, Netflix have expanded their operations since processing of work visas, for IT professionals is much simpler in Canada. Canada has been one of the few countries which even in the aftermath of covid19 has repeatedly stated that it’s pro-immigration policies will not be impacted, and that its pro-immigration policy will play a key role in building a robust economy.
A day after the Trump administration announced its decision to suspend work visas, Canadian IT companies were quick to reach out to individuals who are likely to be hit by the recent order.
The Vice President of Shopify, a Canadian Ecommerce company, Kaz Nejatian mentioned that he had created a resource for individuals impacted by Trump’s recent announcement.
“If you are an engineer whose H1B is in jeopardy, I’ve created a resource to help you avoid Visa troubles and finding fulfilling careers that make the world a better place. Go to H1BEngineer.com or DM me”.
Shopify chief executive and founder Tobi Lutke also reached out to those impacted by Trump’s sudden announcement and said that his company was hiring in different parts of the world.
Not only is Canada likely to attract talented professionals as a result of Trump’s suspension of work visas, but many Indian companies currently based in US are likely to expand their operations in Canada.
In conclusion, Trump may have taken the decision to cancel non-immigrant visas till the end of the year, due to political considerations and to reiterate the point to his supporters that he is genuinely committed to the slogan of ‘America First’, but as a result of cancellation of H1B visas, Canada’s IT sector is likely to get a further boost. At a time when the whole world is becoming insular and populist nationalism is on the rise more countries need to follow Canada’s approach towards immigration.