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Rudy Indarsingh

Gail Alexander

The US Government’s latest visa restriction – blocking foreign workers – which begins today and continues to he end of the year, could increase T&T unemployment and create uncertainty for those who may have work in the US, says UNC Member of Parliament Rudy Indarsingh.

On Monday, the Trump administration issued a presidential proclamation which temporarily blocks foreign workers entering on H-1B visas for skilled employees, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company.

Also blocked are people entering on H-2B seasonal worker visas, used by landscapers and other industries.

The visas are primarily used by workers in the tech industry and their families. The order also halts visas for seasonal work including camp counselling and study-abroad programs.

The US also extended a ban on applications for permanent residency green cards to the end of 2020.

The US says the restriction won’t extend to current visa holders, those who have already been issued valid visas and those already in the US. The US estimated the suspension will open up 525,000 jobs for Americans and assist the coronavirus-battered US economy.

Indarsingh said, “This visa suspension can only impact negatively on T&T and the skilled labour force seeking employment outside of T&T based on this country’s high unemployment rate – for example, people in non-agricultural sectors such as the energy and technological areas.”

“People have lost jobs including in the shut-down of Petrotrin, Methanex, Nutrien and other mothballed plants. Many are looking outwards for jobs. We’ve seen the numbers from Petrotrin who had to take up jobs in Suriname and Guyana and returned home recently. There are also people seeking to go to the US for jobs. This doesn’t auger well as they may be in a tight spot,’’ he said.

Indarsingh added, “The Foreign Affairs and Labour Ministers must be willing to work aggressively to make a case through the US Ambassador – and via Government’s highly paid lobbyist Art Collins in Washington – to get preferential treatment to help people those who have work to go there when borders open. No one’s said T&T’s borders will remain closed to year-end. Prime Minister Keith Rowley should lead this lobby since he’s spoken highly of Mr Collins’ work and reach in the US on T&T’s behalf.’’

Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses didn’t answer calls. Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus referred queries to the Prime Minister.