The United States has said it is considering requests by the Indian government to extend the validity of H-1B visas of citizens stranded in the country due to the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC-TV18 reported on Tuesday.
The H-1B visa allows US companies to temporarily employ skilled workers from abroad. More than three lakh Indians are believed to be on this work permit.
“US Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken steps to help individuals, employers, and others address some of the immigration-related challenges they face as a direct result of the Covid-19 national emergency,” a spokesperson told the television channel. “USCIS continues to analyse issues and other possible steps the agency may take to further address some of these challenges and will consider the public’s recommendations.”
The spokesperson did not confirm whether a decision to extend the visa validity to 180 days has been taken but said, “USCIS will update its website with relevant announcements when appropriate”.
If an employer terminates the contract of an H-1B holder, the employee needs to find new employment within 60 days to retain the visa status, according to the rules. However, Indian workers are expecting that the State Department extend the 60 day grace period to 180 days.
The administration is likely to provide special support to individuals who may be affected by circumstances beyond their control. “For those in the United States in need of an extension of their non immigrant stay, USCIS may extend their stay depending on the circumstances,” the spokesperson said. “We may also provide special consideration or expedited processing for those who may need it on a case-by-case basis.”
Last week, the Congress party had asked the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure the well being of H-1B visa holders in US. “The sword of H-1B visa job terminations looms large over an estimated 75,000 Indians, with the United States giving them only a 60-day period to find a new job in case of a lay off”, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had said.
Almost 16.8 million people have filed for US unemployment benefits in the last three weeks, according to Politico. The country shut down to stop the spread of the coronavirus, overwhelming state labour departments and creating a large backlog of pending applications.