Impact of Covid-19 on immigration


The United Nations reported, in their 2020 International Migration Highlights, that the Indian diaspora is the largest in the world and that “in 2020, 18 million people from India were living outside their country of birth” . The United States receives the second largest number of Indian immigrants, after the United Arab Emirates.

By far, the type of US visa most used by Indians to enter the country is the H1-B, known as the work visa. Over the past decade, 1,147,630 H1-B visas have been issued to Indian nationals. The second most common visa issued to Indians is the F-1 student visa (451,512), followed by the L-1 visa (237,876), which is used for intra-company transfers of executives and executives. While popular, all three are nonimmigrant visas that require constant renewal and have suffered significant impacts over the past year – some would say because of the COVID-19 pandemic, others because of the measures. anti-immigrant action taken by President Donald Trump’s administration. A combination of the two is very likely.

Even before the pandemic, the number of applications for L-1 dropped dramatically. Approvals and renewals have become more stringent and have discouraged applicants, according to industry experts. Additionally, when the pandemic took hold last year, issuances of L-1 and H1-B visas were suspended for workers, spouses and children under executive orders signed by Trump on June 22, 2020. With the economy heavily impacted by COVID-19, and to preserve American jobs for American citizens, one of the last actions of the Trump presidency was to reformulate the H1-B lottery rules to selection based on salary levels. This change would affect not only visa holders, but also many industries that depend on the talents of foreigners who use the H1-B visa to stay in the country, as is the case with many companies in Silicon Valley and the rest of the world. tech workers in general, among others. Finally, after receiving comments from industry stakeholders, the Ministry of Labor decided on May 13, 2021 to postpone the effective date to November 14, 2022.

F-1 students have also faced restrictions imposed by executive orders issued in the wake of the pandemic. Many students have been barred from entering the country unless some of their classes are held on campus, while many universities have switched their 2020-2021 classes to online only. Uncertainty over whether they could enter or stay in the country has led many students to delay their 2020-2021 terms by one year, with consequences yet to be seen. We can certainly foresee a more difficult admissions process in a year or two (with more applications) and a shortage of young professionals in three to five years (with fewer graduates).

Although these “student bans” and “travel bans” were lifted by Joe Biden during his first month as President of the United States, they highlighted the differences between immigrant visas, such as those in EB categories, and much less certain non-immigrant visas. The main advantage is that immigrant visas, which lead to a green card, show that the applicant intends to live permanently in the country. An example of the flexibility offered by the green card: cardholders have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by Trump’s executive orders.

Indian nationals have been among the top 10 EB-5 visa applicants for over 10 years, and in 2019 they rose to second place among EB-5 visa recipients, behind China. The EB-5 investor visa requires a minimum investment of $ 900,000 and the creation of at least 10 full-time jobs in the US economy. Applicants and their immediate family (spouse and children under 21) are eligible to receive green cards if all visa requirements are met. Almost 80,000 foreign nationals have invested in the EB-5 program since its inception in 1990. We estimate that more than 200,000 people have completed the program, received their green cards, and are working, studying and starting a business in the United States. .

EB-5 regulations changed in November 2019, which along with COVID-19 impacted the EB-5 industry, decreasing the number of applicants in 2020 as well as the number of companies offering EB projects. -5. Stakeholders believe that this development is forcing regional centers, developers and immigration lawyers to be more professional and sophisticated in their offerings. 2021 has already shown an increase in EB-5 activity, including a proposal from the US Senate to reformulate the program to add more integrity measures and to re-authorize the Regional Center program for the next five years.

As expected, the Biden administration so far appears to be more pro-immigration. Candidates for key positions include names with professional experience in the field, such as Alejandro Mayorkas for DHS secretary, who is credited with “professionalizing” the USCIS immigrant processing office under Barack Obama. Travel bans were quickly lifted as promised, and there was a recent reactivation of the International Entrepreneur Rule (IRE), known as the Startup Visa, which was in danger of being repealed by Trump.

In general, people are more optimistic about the future when they see the US government take bold action – the first and second Covid relief bills, and of course the vaccination schedule shows what the United States can. do to take care of their citizens. On the contrary, the pandemic has shown that the world is more interconnected than ever before and the great importance of flexible travel. Residency-by-investment programs are expected to expand in the coming months, offering applicants alternative options and helping the country in its economic recovery.

The author, Suresh Rajan is the executive chairman and founder of LCR Capital Partners. Opinions expressed are personal

First publication: STI


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