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Neha Mahajan was a television journalist in India before her husband’s job moved her family to the United States in 2008. She has spent years locked in the labor market, confined by what she calls the “cage.” ‘gold’ of her immigration status, one in which the pandemic has pushed her back.

Mahajan started working after a regulatory change from the Barack Obama administration in 2015 allowed people with spousal visas to have a job and in early 2021 she accepted a new development job. commercial in a law firm specializing in immigration. However, processing delays linked to the pandemic caused his work permit to expire in July, forcing him to take a permit.

“It affects you emotionally and wears you out,” said Mahajan, 39, who lives in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

Last week he gave her a break, albeit temporarily. You have received the approval documents for your renewed work authorization, allowing you to re-enter the labor market. However, a process that should have taken three months was extended to ten, leaving her on the sidelines all summer. And since her visa is linked to that of her husband, she will have to reapply for authorization in December when her visa is renewed.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers have disappeared from the workforce as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving gaps in white-collar occupations like Mahajan’s and more service-oriented jobs in beach towns and resorts ski. . Newcomers and temporary visa applicants were initially limited by policy changes by former President Donald Trump, who used a series of executive orders to curb many types of legal immigration. Then, travel restrictions and bureaucratic delays from the pandemic caused immigration to plummet, threatening a loss of talent and long-term economic potential.

Some of these missing potential employees are likely to come to work when travel restrictions are lifted and visa processing delays are corrected, as Mahajan’s example suggests. However, recent immigration lost due to the pandemic will likely leave a permanent hole. Goldman Sachs estimated in research this month that the economy is short of 700,000 temporary visa holders and permanent immigrant workers, and that perhaps 300,000 of those people would never come to the United States to work.

Employers constantly complain that they are having difficulty hiring and there are more job offers than those actively looking for work, despite millions fewer workers compared to the period before the pandemic. The decline in immigration is one of the many reasons for this disconnection. Businesses that depend on foreign workers have seen waves of infections and delays in consulate paperwork, keeping potential employees in their home countries or trapped in the United States, but unable to work.

“Employers have to wait a long time for their applications to be approved and renewals are not processed in a timely manner,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer who teaches at Cornell University School of Law. “It will take a long time to resolve the delay.”

The entry of workers had already slowed well before the pandemic, following an offensive by the Trump administration that made it difficult for foreign workers, refugees and family members to enter the United States. immigrants. But the pandemic came during that decline and accelerated it dramatically: Global visa issuance fell by 4.7 million last year.

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