H1B Suspension: What does it mean to international students?
As of today, the USA continues to be the most affected country due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the country recording a staggering 2.3 million total cases. The resultant lockdowns on different levels and a complete sealing of the country’s borders had resulted in a huge economic shock; however the largest economy of the world has been staging a remarkable recovery even as it continues to grapple with the disease. While complete recovery is bound to take at least few months, with a view to preventing the loss of American jobs to foreign workers, POTUS Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order on June 22nd which has barred until December 31st, 2020, the entry of foreigners on certain types of Visas listed in the following screenshot:
Among the above, the restriction of entry using the H1B visa has caused the maximum concern for Indians aspiring to pursue their higher studies in the US. However, in this article, we explain why there is absolutely no reason for such aspirants to worry about the recently signed Executive Order. To begin with, we look at the immediate next Section of the Order which reads as follows:
The underlined clauses of Section 3 are key to understanding why you should not be losing sleep over the Executive Order. Here are the implications of the Order for different categories of students:
For Students currently on an H1B Visa
The Executive Order limits the issuance of new H1B Visas for such workers who may seek entry into the US during the period of June 22nd to December 31st for employment. There is no mention of cancellation of existing H1B Visas, so those students who are currently on H1B will not lose their Visa.
For Fall 2018 intake Students who have graduated/ are set to graduate
The Order does not mention anything about F-1 Visa, and therefore, the F-1 Visa status remains unchanged. If you have just graduated out of your program and have secured jobs, you would begin working under the OPT provision under the F-1 Visa. Since the F-1 Visa is untouched, you can still work during the OPT period on your F-1 Visa.
For Students on OPT who would be transitioning to working on H1B Visa
Clause a (ii) of Section 3 (one of the highlighted clauses) mentions that Section 2 applies only to such aliens who do not have a non-immigrant Visa on the date of promulgation of the Executive Order i.e. on June 22nd. Since a student who is working on an OPT has a running F-1 Visa, which is a non-immigrant visa, he stays immune from the application of Section 2.
For Students who are planning to go for their education in future
The Executive Order as it is, extends only till December 31st of this year. Therefore:
– If you are planning to begin your studies as part of the Fall 2020 intake, you would be issued an F-1 Visa upon clearing the Visa interview. You would thus be able to enter the US on a non-immigrant student Visa. The Executive Order does not restrict the issuance of F-1 Visas, so if you have a University admit, and if you clear the Visa interview, you will not lose your chance to continue with your education plans as originally intended.
The OPT provision allows you to work for one year after your program which can be extended for 24 months for students who pursue STEM degrees (which is the category of programs most students from India go for). Thus, you are clearly not going to be affected by the Executive Order
– For students who are plan to apply for Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 intakes, there is even lesser reason to be worried. Because if the Executive Order has no implications for Fall 2020 students, prospective applicants are naturally unaffected by the Order.
In a nutshell, the Executive Order does not affect students who:
- are currently working on H1B Visa
- may be required to transition from F-1 Visa to H1B Visa
- will be beginning their OPT on the F-1 Visa
- will be initiating their university education as part of the Fall 2020 intake
- are planning to apply for study programs in the US in future.
Since there cannot be any other category of students, we can be confident that the Executive Order would not disturb your existing employees in the US or your plans for studying in the US in the future.
The Order does briefly mention a provision for its extension in Section 4:
However, even if the order is extended, none of the students belonging to any of the categories mentioned would be affected due to the same reasons as mentioned above. If they are immune from being affected by the Executive Order while it is in effect, they will continue to be immune to it even if the same is extended. In fact, given that there is going to be a periodic review of the Order as mentioned in the same section, there is a possibility that even its current restrictions could be diluted, depending on what the federal government and the various administrative bodies deem fit to serve American interests.
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