Trump to tighten visa requirements for highly-skilled foreign workers

The U.S. must do its all 'to make sure the American worker is put first,' says Chad Wolf, acting DHS secretary.

Just four weeks before the 2020 election, the Trump administration is again moving to tighten its immigration policies. 

On Tuesday, significant changes were announced to the H-1B visa program which enables highly-skilled workers from foreign nations to be employed in the United States. 

“We must do everything we can within the bounds of the law to make sure the American worker is put first,” says Chad Wolf, acting DHS secretary. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

The restrictionist policies have been framed as a way to protect American jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, for years, tech companies have long fought against changes to the H-1B program it uses to hire skilled engineers from several countries.

“With millions of Americans looking for work, and as the economy continues its recovery, immediate action is needed to guard against the risk lower-cost foreign labor can pose to the well-being of U.S. workers,” Patrick Pizzella, the deputy secretary of labor, said Tuesday.

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The new changes are set to reduce the number of H-1B visas by one third. The initiative was announced jointly by the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security. 

DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf issued a statement that claims “more than a half-million H-1B nonimmigrants in the United States have been used to displace U.S. workers.”

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“We have entered an era in which economic security is an integral part of homeland security. Put simply, economic security is homeland security. In response, we must do everything we can within the bounds of the law to make sure the American worker is put first,” Wolf’s statement reads.

Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration, a Seattle tech company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and U.S. citizenship, told The New York Times that the administration’s decision is sure to be met with court challenges. 

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H-1B visas are granted most frequently to tech employees such as computer engineers and software developers, as well as workers in architecture, accounting and medicine, all STEM fields. Researchers have noted that America has a skills gap in filling roles from these areas. 

The new rule narrows the definition of a “specialty occupation” and will enhance DHS’ ability to enforce worksite compliance through inspections before, during and after an H1-B petition is approved. 

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Visa applicants will have to have a degree in their “specialty occupation” rather than any college degree and will have to prove they have a “body of highly specialized knowledge.” 

The changes will take place almost immediately. 

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