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COVID-19: What does President Trumps temporary H1B visa ban mean for Fall 2021 applicants?

By June 29, 2020April 29th, 2021No Comments

We got a couple of questions from Fall 2021 applicants on the impact of the temporary H1B visa ban announced by President Trump. In this article, we will clarify our perspective from a Fall 2021 applicant perspective.

For Fall 2021 applicants, we do not see any major impact of Trump’s temporary H1B visa ban at this point in time. 

We have outlined 6 reasons below why Fall 2021 students should not worry about the temporary visa ban below.

1. Current H1B “Temporary” Visa ban only till December 2020

The current visa ban on new H1B’s is only until December 2020. Fall 2021 students will start their semester only in August/September 2021 which is 13 months away.

They will graduate only in 2023 which is almost 3 years away. So the impact of the ban should not have any impact on Fall 2021 applicants to the US.

On another note, students need an F1 visa to go to the USA for graduate studies. There are no changes to that visa under this ban.

2. H1B Visa ban only, Optional Practical Training (OPT) is untouched

Once students graduate from their graduate studies, they usually work on Optional Practical Training (OPT) before they go on work visas like H1B. For STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates, OPT is available for a time period of up to 3 years. Increasingly, top American business schools also offer STEM-compatible MBA programs, which allows students to work full-time in the US for up to 3 years after graduation, without requiring an H1B permit. For non STEM degrees, OPT is available for a period of 1 year.

OPT has been left out of this visa ban. This is largely due to opposition by large technology companies in the USA as a lot of them depend on OPT and H1B visa’s to fill their technology needs. Leading academic institutions have also opposed both the H1B visa ban as well as the OPT ban.

So, as a Fall 2021 applicant, you will probably graduate in 2023. If you are a STEM graduate, you can work until 2026 on OPT before you need a work visa. The current ban is only till December 2020 and so Fall 2020 applicants should be fine.

3. The US Chamber of Commerce and top American business leaders are opposed to the visa ban

The CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to President Trump stating concerns with the impact of a potential temporary ban on work visas. His concern was that as the economy rebounds, US businesses would need to access talent both domestically as well as from outside countries.

Similarly, top Silicon Valley business leaders like Sundar Pichai (Google), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), and Elon Musk (Tesla) have expressed their disappointment on this temporary stay. Twitter put out a statement calling the order shortsighted. Sundar Pichai tweeted :

With sustained pressure from businesses across the board, we expect that this executive order will definitely be temporary. Fall 2021 applicants with almost 3 years to go for graduation should not worry too much about the current temporary ban on work visas till December 2020.

Want more clarity on the matter? Looking for safe alternatives for the Fall 2021 season? Get a personalized action plan!

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4. Election Year in the US (Nov 2020), this short term measure is more a play for the election

Fall 2021 aspirants have to keep in mind that this is an electoral year in the US with President Trump coming up for re-election. Some of these short term measures are more targeted towards the election in November 2020 and will mostly not last long term.

President Trump is under pressure from the opposition party over his handling of the Covid 19 situation. His recent election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma also had a very poor turnout. So, with short term measures like banning H1B visas till December 2020, he is trying to get some momentum going before the election. He understands that long term that America needs H1B’s to remain competitive.

In fact, in Jan 2019, President Trump tweeted the below :

5. The US needs STEM graduates to remain competitive against China

In the post-Covid-19 world, we expect that the demand for STEM will increase as emerging areas like AI, Robotics, Drones, Driverless cars will take off. STEM graduates from China and India play a very important role in helping the US meet the STEM needs of Industry. In fact, a US Congressional Research Service report from Nov 1st, 2019 reported China and India as the #1 and #2 countries from which STEM students (MS & PhD programs) graduated in the US in the academic year 2017-2018.

Now with the worsening relations between the USA and China, we expect to see a drop in the number of Chinese enrollments in US universities. The USA will need to retain STEM graduates from other countries in order to remain competitive on the technology front with China. H1B and L1 visas are an essential path for the US to retain STEM graduates from other countries.

Fall 2021 aspirants who will graduate by 2023 can expect that by that time the economy will be back in full swing with an increased demand for STEM graduates. With the worsening relations between the US and China and the US wanting to stay ahead of China from a technology front, we expect to see the US trying to retain STEM graduates from other countries. 

Keep in mind that Indians comprise the second-highest number of STEM graduates from US universities (154,000 in 2018 as per a US Congressional Research report from November 2019)  after China. So, with the US-India relationship strengthening to counter China, we can expect that STEM graduates from India can stand to benefit in the longer run.

6. International student education is a $39 Billion Industry in the US; universities will do everything in their power to safeguard their interests

While the US has continued to remain the favourite of international students as it is the world’s largest economy and a really large number of high-quality universities, it has been facing stiff competition from Canada in recent years. 

Canada with its easier immigration policies has been attracting a large number of international students in recent years though it is a much smaller economy than the US. The number of universities and the number of technology jobs are lesser than a country like the US. 

An ICEF Monitor report stated that around 1.2 million international students had enrolled in the US in 2017/2018. The annual economic impact of international student enrollment was estimated to be $39 Billion. This was estimated to support around 455,000 jobs.

President Trump will not want to jeopardize such a large industry by taking long term decisions on work visas that make other countries a more favourable destination. So, as Fall 2021 aspirants have time on their hands, they should not worry about this short term H1B visa announcement.

What should I do as a Fall 2021 grad school aspirant?

Our advice is that this is an election year. Do not get distracted by the news and focus on your applications. As a Fall 2021 aspirant, you have a lot of time before your graduate education starts. You are at least 3 years away from graduating with your future MS degree. For PhD aspirants, you have even more time.

There are some unique opportunities that Fall 2021 potentially offers to Indian students as outlined in our recent article with the potential drop in Chinese applicants.

  • So stay the course, start early and give yourself a good shot into getting into a good university. 
  • Remember, you can always defer your admits if you decide not to go for some reason but if you do not apply, that option does not exist.

Want more clarity on the matter? Looking for safe alternatives for the Fall 2021 season? Get a personalized action plan!

Talk to a Counselor!

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