NEW DELHI – One of the biggest policy issues which will set the tone for the U.S.-India strategic relationship under the new Joe Biden administration is work visas for Indians.
India is hoping that Biden will fulfil his poll promise to lift all immigrant visa restrictions that President Donald Trump had imposed during his tenure in the last four years.
Even as President-elect Biden has already indicated that he plans to reverse the Trump administration’s immigration policies on day one of his assuming office, whether it will include any reprieve for Indians is not clear yet. Reports suggest that the Biden administration will pave the way for citizenship in eight years for around 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.
For many Indians, especially those in the information technology industry, America remains a dream destination but under the Trump administration, their efforts to immigrate to the U.S. faced severe challenges. President Trump’s inward-looking policies aimed at ‘Make America Great Again’ resulted in several protectionist measures in employment and trade. The focus of his presidency remained jobs and business for Americans first.
President Trump, however, gave huge concessions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on internal issues like Kashmir, CAA, and Ayodhya over which Democrats in the U.S. took an offensive stand. During his visit to India last February, President Trump refrained from even commenting on the communal violence in New Delhi over CAA. He also did not push his way with the Indian policymakers over the trade deal that the U.S. was expecting to sign with India during his trip.
Though the U.S.-India relationship thrived at multiple levels and in unprecedented ways under the Trump administration, immigration remained a sore issue between the two sides. The rejection rate of H-1B visa applications went up considerably after Trump issued a temporary ban on work visas following the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that the Biden administration is assuming office Jan. 20, policymakers are hoping for a relaxed immigration regime for Indian workers, which could provide a firm foundation for the relationship that President Biden and Prime Minister Modi will share.
Biden already made a huge impact on the Indian American community when he chose Kamala Harris - an American of Indian descent - as his running mate. Apart from projecting himself as the architect of the U.S.-India nuclear deal, he made it a point through his election campaign to use occasions like Diwali to reach out to the Indian American community.
Overall, India has been enjoying due attention and respect from both sides of the political aisle in the U.S. But with the controversial presidential election in the U.S., where Trump supporters believe that the polls were rigged against him, the Biden presidency is likely to face tremendous challenges while executing its policies.
The coronavirus pandemic has already put tremendous strain on the global economy including that of the U.S. With Republicans and Democrats still at each other’s throats especially after the U.S. Congress approved impeachment of President Trump, whether President Biden will be able to have his way on immigration remains to be seen.