President Joe Biden advised to get H-1B visas stamped inside US
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to hire foreign workers for specialised jobs that require theoretical or technical knowledge. Every year, it is used by technology companies to hire tens of thousands of workers from countries such as India and China.
A presidential commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders unanimously approved a recommendation for the provision of stamping of H-1B visas within the United States, a move that, if approved by President Joe Biden, will provide significant relief to thousands of foreign professionals, particularly those from India.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US businesses to hire foreign workers in specialised occupations that require theoretical or technical knowledge. Every year, technology companies rely on it to hire tens of thousands of workers from countries such as India and China.
Before one's H-1B status can be activated, one must apply for a visa stamp at a US Consulate or Embassy abroad, according to current mandatory practice.
The President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders decided at its meeting on Wednesday at the White House.
Notably, many of them, whether new or renewing their H-1B visas, are uncertain due to long visa application appointments in countries such as India, where the current wait period is more than a year. Ajay Jain Bhutoria, an Indian American commission member, proposed a recommendation.
H-1B visa holders are allowed to work in the United States, live here, and contribute to the growth of our economy, innovation, and economic development as part of our immigration process, Bhutoria told members of the commission during the meeting, which was televised live by the White House.
H-1B visa holders, he told commission members, face problems and, in some cases, forced family separation during renewal or when travelling overseas.
Many people whose parents have been in ICU or in critical condition or who have died have been unable to return to their home country due to the frequent delays in visa appointments in their home countries, he said.
In India, the current waiting period for a visa appointment is 844 days, equivalent to two years or more. A similar situation exists in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and many other countries. China is currently far better. So they can't get an appointment, they can't get the stamping done, and they're stuck, according to Bhutoria.
Based out of Silicon Valley, Bhutoria is a successful entrepreneur who has supported President Biden since the beginning of his campaign.
What happens next is that they may lose their job. Wife and children are separated and unable to support themselves, or spouses do not drive. He argued that many of these situations disrupt their lives while they are legally allowed to work here.
This recommendation essentially states that USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Commission) should update its policy, as it was done many years ago, to provide guidelines to allow the extension and stamping of visas in the US by USCIS, he explained.
It had already been done. He added that it had been halted. This recommendation is to ask USCIS to allow stamping in the United States. Alternatively, when these visa holders travel out of the country with expired visa stamping, USCIS should consider providing advanced travel documents so that they can re-enter the US without re-stamping in their home countries, according to Bhutoria.
Several commission members described it as family separation and mental health issue.
According to Chief Commissioner Sonal Shah, an Indian American, this is a matter of family separation and the dignity of H-1B visa holders.
She described it as a simple way to instil fear in families. Shah said, "One of the points I'd like to make here is that I believe this is part of the commission's overall thinking about dignity for people and how we can make it easier and a more dignified process and approach." It's one thing to have rules; it's quite another to disregard the dignity of families and individuals, according to Shah.
(With inputs from PTI)