MUMBAI: Spouses of H-1B and L-1 workers, who were left stranded in India till at least the end of the year, following the visa ban announced by US President Trump on June 22, can now heave a sigh of relief.
Based on a recent guidance issued by ‘The State Department’, a US government agency, once consulate offices open, they will be able to get their visas stamped and fly to the US, to join their spouse.
Certain exceptions from the visa-ban proclamation, which currently extends till December 31, have been provided in the guidance. The exceptions cover spouses and dependent children of the principal non-immigrant who is holding certain categories of valid work visas.
Currently there are 5.83 lakh H-1B visa holders in the US, of which a significant number, estimated to be higher than 3 lakh are Indians. Majority of them are said to be employed in the technology sector. L-1 workers are those who are on intra company transfers and their numbers are much lower.
Spouses and children stranded in India, had come to attend either family functions such as weddings, or medical emergencies of their close relatives. Over a thousand dependants who had found themselves stranded owing to the lockdown, found the situation further exacerbated by the visa-ban.
One anguished mother who was stranded in India with her toddler had tweeted, “It’s been five months since I left US for my H4 visa stamping. Consulate closure and now proclamation! My spouse is in the US. This order has separated us for the rest of the year.”
An immigration expert attached to an IT company said, “As per the new guidance, spouses and children, can still get derivative visa stamps, if the principal visa status holder is in the US or otherwise exempt from the proclamation.”
Mitchell Wexler, California based partner of Fragomen, a global immigration law firm explained the guidance note, “If the principal non-immigrant is exempt from the restrictions because he or she was present in the US or held an H, L, or restricted J visa on June 24 (the effective date of the ban), his or her spouse and dependent children, benefit from that exemption, according to the agency statement.”
This exemption also applies to dependants, if the principal non-immigrant is granted a discretionary exemption from the visa ban. To illustrate a discretionary exemption could be granted to healthcare professionals who will be engaged in fighting Covid-19 and will be entering the US, say on an H-1B or J visa.
An exception from the visa-ban proclamation has also been carved out for child immigrant visa applicants who are in danger of ageing out by January 14, next year.
Incidentally a few days ago, a group of 174 Indians had filed a lawsuit in a US district court against the visa-ban proclamation.