Another news cycle brings another executive order on immigration from President Trump. This one takes aim at the H-1B visa program. It should be no surprise to anyone at this point that President Trump means business when it comes to immigration policy reforms. With recent initiatives struck down by state and federal courts the President’s supports have become increasingly angry about immigration.
The Executive Order
The executive order is to fully review the country’s H-1B visa program. The idea is to clamp down on those companies, mainly in the tech industry, that hire foreign employees for jobs that require a high level of skill. Trump will commission the Department of Homeland Security, which is the agency responsible for issuing H-1B visas, to review the way they reward the visas. Currently, the DHS uses a lottery system to determine who gets a visa and who does not. He also wants to make sure that visas only land in the hand of highly paid, and specially skilled applicants. The President says that the goal is not to allow companies to hire lower paid foreign employees to replace their U.S. counterparts.
President Trump has bipartisan support to revamp the lottery process. The new system will award visas to the highest paid and most difficult jobs first and not through the luck of the draw. The hope is that this will eliminate outsourcing cheaper labor.
Trump has frequently fanned the flames when it comes to H-1B visa immigration. His claims include companies like Walt Disney forcing laid-off technical workers to train their foreign replacements. While it is hard to substantiate these claims, Trump continues to stoke outrage from his supporters.
The recent executive order does not make any immediate changes to the H-1B visa process. This order is mild in comparison with some of the President’s other executive orders on immigration.
The Current Problem With H-1B Visas
Many people, including those in the tech industry itself, will admit there is an issue with the current H-1B. Many companies abuse the current policy, hiring cheaper foreign employees to replace American employees. Earlier this month the Trump administration made a promise to scrutinize companies that use the system, including site visits. Also, the DHS is going to start requiring programmers applying for visas to prove they’re doing specialized and complex jobs.
The Justice Department is also getting in on the act of cracking down on companies that hire H-1B visa holders. In a stern warning issued in April, the DOJ said it would “not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against U.S. workers.” The DOJ may also allow the Trump administration’s new immigration policy to target a related program that allows spouses of H-1B holders to seek employment.
Who Will the New Immigration Policy Affect?
Many tech giants like Google and Apple are cautiously optimistic that any new policies derived from the executive order will be ok. Most of these visas go to Silicon Valley companies. At least 15% of Facebook and Qualcomm’s American workforces hold H-1B visas. The DHS only awards 85,000 visas a year. Every year tech companies flood the Department of Homeland Security with applications when the window opens in April. In the past few years, the DHS has only been able to accept these applications for five days before they were all spoken for.
The large tech companies in the U.S. should be fine when it comes to applicants. These larger organizations usually follow the letter of the law for visas. The real target of any immigration policy reforms are the outsourcing firms that apply for the same visas. These firms accounted for a third of all visas granted in 2014. Many people consider outsourcing firms to be the responsible parties for replacing American’s with cheaper foreign labor.
Critics of the Newest Immigration Policy
Many people, including outsourcing firms themselves, claim Trump’s idea that American’s are being replaced is simply not true. In a statement issued by India’s leading tech group, The National Association of Software and Services Companies, they claim that Indian companies are being treated unfairly. The statement says “We believe that the current campaign to discredit our sector is driven by persistent myths, such as the ideas that H-1B visa holders are ‘cheap labor’ and ‘train their replacements,’ neither of which is accurate.”
Other critics claim this new executive order accomplishes nothing. Particularly harsh criticism came from Senator Charles Schumer of New York. He said, “Like all the other executive orders, it’s just words — he’s calling for new studies. It’s not going to fix the problem. It’s not going to create a single job.”
Many critics harp on the fact that a large percentage of Silicon Valley start-ups are the brainchild of foreigners.
The Immigration Landscape is Changing
Whether you agree with the President’s immigration policy reforms or not, one thing is certain; immigration is changing. It is now more important than ever to know your rights and have a plan in place for you and your family whether you are here legally on a visa, or you are undocumented. Pozo Goldstein has experience dealing with all forms of immigration. If you have questions or concerns about your immigration status, don’t wait, contact our Miami or New York immigration lawyers for a free consultation.