Indian and U.S. technology companies are urging the Trump administration to reconsider an executive order freezing access to many work visas, warning the move would undermine a business model used to supply high-skill talent to clients from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.
Donald Trump’s order last week halts approvals of a range of visas through year-end, including those for intra-company transfers and study-abroad programs, and is aimed at giving Americans preference after record job losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Key for the tech industry are H-1B visas used by workers from India and other countries to fill key roles.
Visa processing is an elaborate, months-long affair so any disruption could hurt the ability of critical workers to travel to clients sites for an extended period. Already, the virus lockdowns have blocked consulate visits essential to the process and forced hundreds of thousands of workers into challenging work-from-home situations.
India’s technology trade group, Nasscom, called Trump’s order “misguided and harmful to the U.S. economy” and warned it would exacerbate the country’s economic pain. Indian companies provide technology staff and services to U.S. hospitals, drugmakers and biotechnology companies, Nasscom pointed out. In addition, the industry may send more workers to Canada or Mexico without access to the U.S. market.
“These are highly-skilled workers who are in great demand and they will be mobile no matter what,” said Shivendra Singh, president of global trade development at Nasscom.
Among the other critics of the order were Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Off Sundar Pichai, Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith and Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk. Pichai, himself a beneficiary of the H-1B visa system in the 1990s, tweeted, “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.”