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H-1B visa: exemptions to ease travel restrictions

Govt allowance for applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in US in the same position with the same employer and visa classification
In a proclamation issued two months ago, Donald Trump suspended work visas across H-1B, L and J categories, sparking concern in the country’s technology industry.
In a proclamation issued two months ago, Donald Trump suspended work visas across H-1B, L and J categories, sparking concern in the country’s technology industry.
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Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 14.08.20, 02:32 AM

The US state department on Wednesday released a set of exemptions that will ease travel restrictions that were clamped on H-1B visa holders in June though there were some lingering concerns over certain caveats in the guidance note.

In a proclamation issued two months ago, President Donald Trump suspended work visas across H-1B, L and J categories, sparking concern in the country’s technology industry.

The latest guidance note says healthcare professionals and researchers travelling on a request supported by a US government agency or an entity to meet critical US foreign policy objectives will be allowed to travel to the US on these visas.

The government has also allowed travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification.

Travel by technical specialists, senior-level managers and other workers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the economic recovery of the United States has also been permitted.

Industry body Nasscom said it was cautiously optimistic about the exemptions but added that the guidelines still allow a lot of leeway in its interpretation. “The exceptions include potential exemptions for technology workers on H-1B/L-1 visas providing critical infrastructure services, a key ask by Nasscom and the Indian tech industry,” Nasscom said in a statement on Thursday.

The association noted that it also includes exceptions for H-1B/L-1 visa-holders who would be returning to the US in the same position with the same employer and visa classification.

Nasscom said it has consistently raised the importance of visa holders working in the tech sector, particularly those who would be delivering services designated essential as per the DHS CISA ‘Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce’.

It raised the importance of particularly those who would be returning to the US in the same position with the same employer and visa classification.

Nasscom welcomed the move saying this will help US businesses access talent critical to the economic recovery phase in the post-COVID world.

“However, we remain ‘cautiously optimistic’ as caveats in the DoS guidance about seniority, unique and significant contributions and/or other factors that go along with the exceptions still allow a lot of leeway in interpretation of the new guidance. The impact can only be gauged in course of time,” it added.

Nasscom emphasised that this is a step in the right direction and encouraged the implementing agencies to ensure that American businesses’ access to critical talent is not hampered.

US President Donald Trump, in his June proclamation, had banned the entry into the US of workers in several key non-immigrant visa categories, including the H-1B, arguing that they eat into American jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.



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