The United States’ Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said he will revoke the suspension of the H-1B visa, sought by tens of thousands of Indian citizens every year, if he is elected to power, PTI reported on Thursday. Biden said that strengthening the US’ relationship with India would be a matter of high priority for his administration.

On June 23, United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order to suspend several categories of foreign work visas, including the H-1B visa that is highly sought-after by Indian IT professionals, till the end of 2020. Trump’s decision came amid a sharp increase in the unemployment rate in the US due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing a digital town hall meeting on Asian-American and Pacific Islander issues, Biden praised the contribution of skilled workers who enter the US under the H-1B visa. “He [Trump] just ended H-1B visas [for] the rest of this year,” he said. “That will not be in my administration. The people on the company visa have built this country.”

Biden also criticised Trump for his “cruel and inhumane” immigration policies. When asked about the policy changes he would bring about in the first 100 days of his presidency, the former American vice-president said: “On day one, I’m going to send the legislative immigration reform bill to [US] Congress to provide a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants who contribute so much to this country, including 1.7 million [17 lakh] from the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin community.”

Also read:

  1. H-1B: What you need to know about Donald Trump’s executive order suspending US work visas till 202
  2. So much for Namaste Trump’: Suspension of H-1B visas provokes condemnation in US and India
  3. Trump’s H-1B suspension will hurt US post-lockdown economy the most, says NASSCOM’s Shivendra Singh

On Wednesday, in a separate fund-raiser event hosted by Chairperson of Beacon Capital Partners Alan Leventhal, the former vice-president said that India and the United States were natural partners.

“India needs to be a partner in the region for our safety’s sake, and quite frankly for theirs,” he added when asked by an attendee whether India is critical to US’ national security. “That partnership, a strategic partnership, is necessary and important in our security.”

“In our administration I was proud to play a role more than a decade ago in securing Congressional approval for the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which is a big deal,” he said, referring to when Barack Obama was the US president. “Helping open the door to great progress in our relationship and strengthening our strategic partnership with India was a high priority in the Obama-Biden administration and will be a high priority if I’m elected president.”

Last month, Biden had also tapped Indian-American Medha Raj to be his digital chief of staff. Raj, in a LinkedIn post on June 26, said: “Excited to share that I’ve joined Joe Biden’s campaign as the Digital Chief of Staff. One hundred and thirty days to the election and we’re not going to waste a minute!”

The US presidential campaign has been forced to go almost entirely virtual due to the coronavirus outbreak. So far, the United States has by far the highest number of cases – over 26.86 lakh – and more than 1.28 lakh deaths due to the virus, also the most for any country, according to Johns Hopkins University.