Sat. May 15th, 2021

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US work visa backlog increases amid coronavirus

3 min read
H-1B Lawsuit

A combination of Covid-19 and Trump’s US work visa ban has exacerbated a current backlog, according to the American Immigration Council. The backlog is affecting some American states more than others. In Nevada for instance, 1 in 4 workers is an immigrant, and demand is increasing, but visas are in short supply.

Immigrant advocates are calling on Congress to update US immigration policy to expand the number of employment-based immigrant visas (green cards) that are given. Since the 1990s, the number of green cards that can be given has been capped at 140,000. Since the coronavirus pandemic, backlogs have significantly increased.

Numerous organizations have been trying to get their overseas workers back to the US. While international students enrolled in US universities have been left stranded abroad. Health professionals, required in nations outside of the US, have also been blocked from returning to the US. Which has served to increase demand for migrants.

Restrictions easing | US Work Visa

One immigrant advocate said: “Gradually organizations are returning to life, engines are restarting. They’re starting to consider moving individuals across borders, sending individuals to work overseas, bringing individuals into work in the US. It’s a matter of finding and ensuring we can get the people through as things open up again.”

However, as per the Congressional Research Service, the US work visa backlog across all categories stood at an amazing 900,000 at the end of 2020.

Based on the current backlog, should it continue at this rate. It means that within 10 years more than 2,000,000 individuals could be left waiting for a US work visa.

Trump Visa Ban

Under the appearance of ensuring American workers, previous US President Donald Trump issued an executive order. Suspending US work visas until the end of 2020. Trump extended this ban, before leaving office, up until 31st March 2021.

The ban was left in place by President Biden and permitted to run its course. The ban has since expired, however, the scale of the backlog has increased. Although the ban has been lifted, coronavirus travel restrictions mean that even if an individual can get a visa, US entry may still be prohibited.

[State Department Expands Exceptions to Regional COVID Travel Bans]

Meanwhile, some US Consulates and Embassies around the world stay shut. While some are starting to resume, services are restricted. We recently reported that E2 visa candidates, in particular, are facing extensive delays due to COVID-19. Also, US visa processing delays have hit Chinese students, according to a NAFSA Member Interest Group.

In February this year, it was reported that the H1B visa to green card backlog had arrived at a record-high of 1.2 million in 2020.

Tech Organizations Severely Affected

The tech area, specifically, has suffered significantly because of Trump’s ban and backlogs caused by the pandemic. While H1B visas are given for three years and can be renewed once. After that workers need to secure permanent residency – meaning either a green card or citizenship – or they must leave the country.

However, green card and citizenship applications have also been hit by extensive backlogs, leaving many facing an uncertain future in the US.

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