The US is working to temporarily ban the issuance of some work-based visas like H-1B, popular among highly-skilled Indian IT professionals, as well as students visas and work authorisation that accompanies them, amidst the high level of unemployment due to the coronavirus, according to a media report on Friday. The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers from countries like India and China in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Nearly 500,000 migrant workers are employed in the US in the H-1B status. “The president’s immigration advisers are drawing up plans for a coming executive order, expected this month, that would ban the issuance of some new temporary, work-based visas,” The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

“The order is expected to focus on visa categories including H-1B, designed for highly skilled workers, and H-2B, for seasonal migrant workers, as well as student visas and the work authorization that accompanies them, it said. More than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last two months due to the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the US economy to a standstill.

The IMF and the World Bank have projected a negative growth rate for the country. White House officials say that the US economy is likely to grow at negative 15 to 20 per cent in the second quarter. The monthly jobs report on Friday said that the unemployment rate in the US for the month of April rose to 14.7 per cent. This is the highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series, seasonally adjusted data are available back to January 1948, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

As such, the Trump administration, having temporarily closed borders and curtailed immigration in response to the coronavirus pandemic, is moving to expand those restrictions while the president’s advisers push to leave them in place for months or even years to come, according to several people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Last month, President Donald Trump had signed an executive order temporarily barring new immigrants for 60 days, including family members of US citizens. The coming changes, the administration has suggested, will build on this April action, the journal said. Given the high level of unemployment and joblessness, according to the daily, senior administration officials are operating on the assumption that the public, during the pandemic, will be willing to accept new limits on immigration.

Though the scope of the order hasn’t yet been decided, administration officials said it could range from suspensions of entire visa categories to the creation of incentives to hire Americans in industries hardest-hit by layoffs, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Wall Street Journal report came a day after a group of four Republican Senators in a letter urged Trump to suspend all new guest worker visas for 60 days and some of its categories, including the H-1B visa, for at least the next year or until unemployment figures return to normal levels in the country.

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