A memo issued on Monday by US President Donald J. Trump has ordered the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reduce overstays of business and tourist visitors and of other non-immigrant visa holders.
A development which may hit Indians hard is the direction by Trump to impose admission bonds as a means of improving compliance with the terms and conditions of ‘non-immigrant visas’.
“The Presidential Memo refers to ‘all classes of non-immigrant visas, which is all encompassing. It would cover visas given to students, workers and their dependants. Looks like admission bonds, will be commonly used, in the future,” Mitchell Wexler, California based partner at Fragomen, a global firm specialising in immigration laws, told TOI.
The memo does not contain many specifics, nor does it impose any immediate restrictions, but it calls upon US agencies to provide recommendations and/or status reports to President Trump within 120 days.
As per the Open Doors Report released last November, there were 1.96 lakh Indian students in the US, constituting nearly 18% of the total international students. The Entry-Exit Overstay Report (2018) issued by DHS shows that nearly 1.27 lakh Indian students were expected to leave the US during the fiscal 2017 (period October 1, 2016 up to September 30, 2017). Of which 3.45% overstayed.
TOI, in its coverage of Trump’s fall agenda, in its edition dated October 18, had covered a proposed agenda item, that called for stay in the US by international students to be for a specified period (until a specific departure date), rather than for the entire duration of their holding a student status. This agenda item was aimed at curbing overstays in the US by international students.
The H-1B non-immigrant work visa is a popular visa for hiring technology workers from India. For the fiscal ended September 30, 2017, Indians were allotted 67,815 H-1B visas for initial employment (or 63% of the total). H-1B extensions granted to Indians during this period stood at 2.08 lakh or 81% of the aggregate figure.
“The nitty-gritty will need to be studied once the various agencies issue policies including introduction of admission bonds,” says an immigration expert attached to a technology company.
In 2013, UK had contemplated a security bond of GBP 3,000 for visa applicants from six countries, including India. After vociferous protests including from the Indian government, this plan was dropped.
On another front, the Presidential Memo calls upon the Secretary of State to engage with governments of countries with a total overstay rate greater than 10% in the combined B-1 and B-2 visa category (these visas are granted to those travelling to US as tourists or for business). President Trump has asked for recommendations from US agencies on the lines of suspension of visa issuance, limits on duration, or requirement of additional documents. Here, Indians are unlikely to be impacted. “Given the past data, India is not even close to the 10% threshold. Just 1.14% of its citizens overstayed their B-1 and B-2 status, as per the DHS report,” points out Wexler.