H-1B visa suspension prevents several Indians in US from flying back home aboard repatriation flights

Several Indians in the US, either on the H-1B work visa or Green Card having children who are American citizens by birth, are being prevented from travelling to India aboard the special repatriation flights being run by Air India under the Vande Baharat Mission, amidst the Coronavirus lockdown.

According to the regulations issued by the Indian government last month and updated last week, visas of foreign nationals and OCI cards, that provide visa-free travel privileges to the people of Indian-origin, have been suspended as part of the new international travel restrictions.

Several parents are not able to return to India despite holding valid Indian visas because their children are American citizens.

In March, fearing massive layoffs in America due to the Coronavirus crisis that is hitting businesses around the globe, foreign technology professionals on H-1B visas, most sought after among Indians, had demanded the Trump administration to extend their permissible post-job loss limit to stay in the US from the existing 60 to 180 days.

However, there has been no decision from the White House so far.

The current federal rules require an H-1B visa holder to leave the US along with their family members within 60 days of losing their job.

H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies in the US to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.

“We request the government to temporarily extend the 60-day grace period to 180 days and protect the H-1B workers under these difficult times,” said a petition.

Following this, in a major relief for professionals and immigrants from countries like India, the US government has given a grace period of 60 days to H-1B visa holders and Green Card applicants, who have been served notices for submission of various documents, taking into account the massive novel Coronavirus outbreak in America.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) earlier this month said the 60-day grace period for responding to its requests will include requests for evidence; continuations to request evidence (N-14); notices of intent to deny; notices of intent to revoke; notices of intent to rescind and notices of intent to terminate regional investment centers; and filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

“USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action,” it said in a statement.

The USCIS can issue a maximum of 65,000 H-1B work visas every year to highly skilled foreign workers. It can issue an additional 20,000 H-1B visas to those highly skilled foreign workers who have obtained masters or higher degrees from an American educational institution.

Under the existing law, the US can issue a maximum of 1,40,000 employment-based green cards every year with a per country cap of seven per cent.

Meanwhile, India is bringing back nearly 15,000 citizens on board 64 flights from May 7-13.

These special flights are operated by Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express to repatriate Indians from 12 countries — the UAE, the UK, the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.

10 flights would fly back Indians from the UAE, 7 flights from the UK, 7 from the US, 2 from Qatar, 5 from Saudi Arabia, 5 from Singapore, 7 from Malaysia, 5 from Philippines, 7 from Bangladesh, 2 from Bahrain, 5 from Kuwait and 2 from Oman, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had earlier informed.

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