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Over 60000 Indians to be jobless in US soon, 80 per cent of them women

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Over 60000 Indians to be jobless in US soon, 80 per cent of them women

More than 60,000 Indians working in the US may soon become jobless as US President Donald Trump decides to scrap H-4 visa permits under America First policy. About 80 per cent of those directly affected are women.

With Donald Trump administration increasingly looking inward in with its America First policy outlook, over 60,000 Indians may soon be rendered jobless in the US. This follows from a letter from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services deciding to terminate work permits granted to H-4 visa holders. The H-4 visa is granted to the spouses of professionals working in the US on H-1B visa.

The H-4 visa allows the person to work in the US. The permission was granted to the holders during Barack Obama regime which Donald Trump administration has decided to scrap. About 80 per cent of H-4 visa holders are women. Immigration service chief Francis Cissna yesterday informed the lawmakers about the Trump administration's decision to withdraw work permit under H-4 visa rule.

The Obama administration had allowed the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US, earn wages and pay taxes under H-4 visa scheme. Indian IT firms, traditionally the biggest sponsors of H-1B visas, have drastically reduced new applications in the last three years to hedge themselves against rising protectionism.

The move by the Trump administration comes as a major setback to Indian youths seeking jobs. It has come on back of growing unemployment in India. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate is likely to be almost double to 6.75 per cent in April from 3.39 per cent in July 2017 in the country.

Experts are of the view that only few companies are creating fresh jobs as most others are going in for replacement hiring at a time when public sector employment generation remains tepid. For instance, the Indian Railways received more than 2.3 crore applications for nearly 90,000 jobs. Another survey suggests 40 per cent of the workforce is unable to find work all through the year.

Meanwhile, influential lawmakers and representative of the American IT industry, including Facebook, have opposed the Trump administration's plan to withdraw work permits to H-4 visa holders, who are spouses of H-1B visa holders.

"Rescinding this rule and removing tens of thousands of people from the American workforce would be devastating to their families, and would hurt our economy," Silicon Valley-based FWD.US, which was founded by top IT companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, said in a report released yesterday.

"This policy is important because it allows certain individuals to secure gainful employment without having to wait for their spouses to receive permanent residency, many of whom are experiencing a processing backlog of more than a decade," FWD.US argued.

"H-4 work authorisation has allowed an estimated 100,000 people to begin working and further integrate into their communities," the report quoted a group of 15 top American lawmakers from California as saying.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M Nielson, the lawmakers argued that the Obama-era H-4 rule lessened the burden on thousands of H-1B recipients and their families while they transition from non-immigrants to lawful permanent residents by allowing their families to earn dual incomes.

Many entrepreneurs used their EADs to start businesses that now employ US citizens. "Eliminating this benefit removes an important incentive for highly skilled immigrants to remain here to invest in and grow our economy to the benefit of all Americans," the letter signed by, among others, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, said.

"The H-4 rule is a matter of both economic competitiveness and maintaining family unity. The United States has already invested in these workers with years of expertise and we should not be sending them abroad to innovate and use their experience and talents against US businesses. We ask that you reconsider the revocation of the H-4 rule," the lawmakers said in the letter dated March 5.

As the issue affects a large number of highly qualified India professionals, mostly women, the Indian Embassy too has been engaging with lawmakers and officials of the Trump Administration.

"Eliminating work authorisation for roughly 100,000 H-4 visa holders, most of whom are educated women like me, will hurt our country and have negative consequences on tens of thousands of American families. We must protect legal immigration channels that will help the US remain at the forefront of innovation for generations to come," said Dr Maria Navas-Moreno, Co Founder of Lever Photonics and an H-4 visa holder.

As employers continue to navigate the outdated immigration system, the administration should "reconsider its likely rescission" of the H-4 visa rule, that granted work authorisation to a limited subset of spouses and was critical in helping employers recruit and retain a high-skilled workforce, as well as in keeping the United States competitive in the global innovation race, Government Affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council director Karolina Filipiak said.

(With PTI inputs)