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Sundar Pichai Says “He’s Disappointed” As Trump Pauses Work Visas

Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai, is an Indian-American business executive, the chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc., and its subsidiary Google LLC. Pichai began his career as a materials engineer and joined Google as a management executive in 2004.

Donald Trump

Donald John Trump is the 45th and current (2020) president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality. Trump was born and raised in Queens, a borough of New York City, and received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School.

Trump suspends H-1B, other visas till year-end as Covid-19 shrinks jobs

President Donald Trump signed an order Monday temporarily halting access to several employment-based visas, affecting hundreds of thousands of people seeking to work in the U.S. The technology industry said the move would hurt the economy.

The order freezes new H1-B and H-4 visas, used by technology workers and their families, as well as L visas for intracompany transfers and most J visas for work- and study-abroad programs, including au pairs, through the end of the year.

The issuance of new green cards will also remain halted through the end of the year.

The action will also pause some H2-B visas for seasonal workers, with an exception for those in the food-processing industry, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters Monday.

Twitter Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. called the order “short-sighted,” saying immigrant tech labor could help the U.S. economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said on Twitter he was “disappointed” and that “we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”

Trump acted with the U.S. facing an unemployment rate of 13.3% after businesses closed or reduced staff in response to the virus outbreak. The president’s order won’t affect immigrant workers who already hold the visas.

H-1B Criticism

In the past few years, the administration has moved to tighten the H-1B program, and the approval rate for applications has fallen. The technology industry relies on H-1B visas to hire overseas talent, particularly in the fields of science and engineering. Critics say some companies have abused the program to displace American workers.

About three-quarters of H-1B visas go to people working in the technology industry, though the exact levels vary year by year. The number of non-immigrant visas issued in 2019 declined for the fourth consecutive year, to 8.7 million from 10.9 million in 2015, according to the State Department.

CompTIA, a trade group that represents big tech companies like Amazon and Google parent company Alphabet Inc. said the move would deal a lasting blow to the economy.

TechNet, a lobbying group that represents most of the largest tech companies, had been pushing for the Trump administration to show leniency to the hundreds of thousands of H-1B holders already in the U.S. who lost their jobs in the Covid-19 pandemic and now risk falling into illegal status.

The order not only limits the ability of companies to recruit talent from overseas, but also impacts their current foreign workers who have been waiting to get their visas authorized. When an H-1B visa is awarded to individuals, they must travel to a consulate outside the U.S., typically in their home country, to activate it.

Many workers have been unable to travel since the coronavirus pandemic shut borders across the world. “A lot of these workers are now prisoners in the U.S. because they don’t have a valid visa stamp in their passport — if they go, they can’t come back in,” Nair said.

However, Fragomen Worldwide immigration lawyer James Pack, who provides counsel to businesses in the tech sector, said the executive order would only have a limited impact on U.S. companies because it only applies to first-time H-1B applicants who are outside the country. Those already working for firms inside the U.S. would not be impacted, Pack said.

The current cap for those visas is 85,000 annually. H-4 visas are issued to immediate family members of H-1B visa holders.

The H1-B program will be restructured to put an emphasis on would-be immigrants with the highest salary offers once the program restarts next year, the senior administration official said. Under such changes, entry-level workers coming from colleges are less likely to get the visa, as the spots will mostly go to people who have master’s degrees or doctorates working in high-earning fields such as trading, algorithms, and IT, said Shannon Donnelly, a partner and immigration attorney at Morgan Lewis.

The CEO’s reaction

Responding to the development, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that he was disappointed by the proclamation and added that Google would continue to stand with the immigrants.

He even tweeted about the matter :