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Biden to let Trump’s H-1B visa ban expire in a win for tech

Closeup of President Biden seated and wearing a mask.
President Biden opted not to renew the ban on H-1B visas, which are used by technology companies to hire foreign coders and engineers. It was imposed last June.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Biden plans to allow a pandemic-related ban on visas for certain temporary workers, enacted by former President Trump, to expire Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter.

The moratorium, which affected H-1B visas used by technology companies to hire foreign coders and engineers, was imposed last June. Biden is opting not to renew it, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the decision hadn’t been announced. The White House declined to comment.

Biden’s decision will please business groups in Silicon Valley as well as India’s information technology services leaders, which had pressured the administration to lift the ban ever since the new president took office. Executives had grown frustrated that the directive was not immediately revoked, arguing it hurt U.S. companies.

American tech companies — Facebook Inc., Google and others — rely on foreign talent to shore up domestic workforces. Infosys Ltd. and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. traditionally dispatch Indian software engineers to work in tandem with their American clients, which include some of the largest Wall Street banks and technology corporations. It remains unclear whether Biden will ease visa restrictions in general, reversing curbs imposed by the Trump administration.

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Shares of TCS, Asia’s leading software services company, rose more than 1% on Wednesday, though rivals Infosys and Wipro Ltd. fell.

Trump’s restrictions on guest-worker visas, which also covered nonagricultural seasonal laborers, au pairs and others, had been under review by the Biden administration.

Biden last month withdrew a related Trump executive order that, citing the pandemic, had stopped the issuance of new green cards — a move that drastically cut legal immigration to the United States. Trump had argued the policies were necessary to protect the American economy as it emerged from the pandemic-induced recession.

“To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,” Biden said in a presidential proclamation at the time. “It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”

The ban on guest-worker visas was not revoked at the same time. Temporary work visas are unpopular with labor unions and other worker groups that argue that they put American workers at a disadvantage to their foreign counterparts.

Despite the Trump administration’s extension of the visa ban at the end of 2020, opponents of the restrictions had already found some success in court.

A federal judge in California granted a preliminary injunction Oct. 1 in a lawsuit brought by several large business groups, including the National Assn. of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The groups argued Trump exceeded his authority by imposing immigration restrictions in his June 22 proclamation.

The Trump Justice Department appealed that ruling to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In February, the appellate court requested a status report from the parties by April 7.


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