President Donald Trump signed a regulation on Monday that temporarily blocked access to several employment-related visas. This affected hundreds of thousands of people who want to work in the United States. The technology industry said the move would harm the economy.
The regulation will remove new H1-B and H-4 visas used by technology workers and their families, as well as L-visas for intra-group transfers and most J-visas for work and stay abroad programs, including au pairs, frozen until the end of the year.
The issue of new green cards will also cease until the end of the year.
The action will also pause some H2-B visas for seasonal workers, except for those in the food industry, according to a senior official who briefed the reporters on Monday.
Twitter Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. called the order "short-sighted", saying that migrant workers could help the US economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Alphabet Inc.'s chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said on Twitter that he was "disappointed" and "we will continue to work with immigrants and work to expand opportunities for everyone."
Trump traded with the US unemployment rate of 13.3% after companies shut down or cut staff in response to the virus outbreak. The President's order does not affect immigrants who already have a visa.
"In the exceptional circumstances of the economic downturn resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak, certain visa programs for non-immigrants who authorize such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers," Trump said in his order.
In an interview with Fox News on Saturday, Trump said he wanted the Americans to take jobs that would otherwise go to people who were granted the visa.
"We have a lot of people looking for jobs," he said to Fox. "I think it will make a lot of people very happy. And it is common sense."
Trump tweeted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic that he wanted to "temporarily suspend immigration to the United States". Industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Information Technology Industry Council wrote to Trump to express concern that restrictions would disrupt business and hinder growth.
The U.S. issued more than 900,000 visas in the categories that Trump wants to freeze in 2019.
Administration has tightened the H-1B program in recent years and the approval rate for applications has decreased. The technology industry relies on H-1B visas to hire overseas talent, particularly in science and technology. Critics say some companies have misused the program to expel American workers.
Approximately three quarters of H-1B visas are issued to people working in the technology industry, although the exact values vary from year to year. The number of non-immigration visas issued in 2019 fell for the fourth year in a row from 10.9 million in 2015 to 8.7 million, the State Department said.
CompTIA, a trading group that represents major technology companies like Amazon and Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., said the move would do a lasting blow to the economy.
"The difficulty for brains to work in the United States only benefits our overseas competitors who gain talent for building and developing innovative, job-creating goods and services," said Cinnamon Rogers, executive vice president of public advocacy CompTIA.
TechNet, a lobby group that represents most of the largest technology companies, had pushed for the Trump administration to support the hundreds of thousands of H-1B holders who have already lost their jobs in the Covid 19 pandemic in the U.S. and are now losing theirs Forbearance shows the risk of falling into illegal status.
Nandini Nair, an immigration partner at Greenspoon Marder, said the new regulation will have a "huge impact" on US companies, particularly in the technology sector. Many spent thousands of dollars filing documents for each H-1B visa applicant, she said.
"They spent all this money and planned their budgets and workers for these visas, and that's now being shot," said Nair.
The order not only limits the ability of companies to recruit talent from abroad, but also affects their current foreign workers who have been waiting for their visa to be approved. When an individual receives an H-1B visa, they must travel to a consulate outside the United States, usually in their home country, to activate it.
Many workers have not been able to travel since the corona virus pandemic closed the borders of the world. "Many of these workers are now prisoners in the United States because they don't have a valid visa stamp in their passport – they can't come back if they leave," said Nair.
However, Fragomen Worldwide immigration lawyer James Pack, who advises technology companies, said that the executive regulation would have limited impact on U.S. companies, as it applies only to first-time H-1B applicants who are located outside the country are located. Those who already work for companies in the United States would not be affected, said Pack.
The current cap on these visas is 85,000 a year. H-4 visas are issued to immediate family members of H-1B visa holders.
The H1-B program will be restructured to focus on potential immigrants with the highest salary offerings as soon as the program resumes next year, the senior administrator said. In such circumstances, entry-level students coming from colleges are less likely to get the visa, as places tend to go to people with a master's degree or doctorate in high-income areas such as commerce, algorithms, and IT, Shannon said Donnelly, partner and immigration lawyer at Morgan Lewis.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)