Donald Trump is in the battleground state of Wisconsin to sign an executive order that will reportedly make it harder for technology companies to hire cheaper, high-skilled workers from overseas and prioritize the hiring of American workers and strengthen rules to make sure government contracts are awarded to American contractors.
Trump and White House officials have targeted the H-1B visa for high-skilled, foreign workers, which will even affect Trump himself. His own company takes advantage of the H-1B visa at his hotels, golf courses and vineyard. According to a CNN Money investigation conducted in July 2016, Trump utilized the visa to import 1,256 workers over 15 years. One of Trump’s campaign promises was to end the H-1B visa as a cheap labor program, but according to a study by Brookings Institute researchers, H-1B job vacancies are harder to fill and H-1B workers are paid more than non-H-1B workers, with wage growth much higher than the national average. Here are some answers to criticisms brought against the study and here’s a comparable study that comes to the same conclusion.
According to WorkPermit.com, the U.S. H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. Any professional level job that usually requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations, but if a foreign worker does not have a Bachelor’s degree, they may still be able to show degree equivalence through work experience or other qualifications.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it received 199,000 petitions for 85,000 slots during this year’s H-1B visa lottery. Last year, the agency received 236,000 applications. Indian outsourcing firms such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro receive most of the visas because they submit the most applications to increase their chances.
Technology companies have long complained of a lack of a highly educated and skilled American workers as a reason for taking advantage of the H-1B program, but there are also companies taking advantage of it. Regardless, American technology companies could get around all of this by hiring foreign workers to work remotely from their home countries.
Supporters of the H-1B visa program say Trump’s executive order will make it harder and more expensive for businesses to find adequate workers, while the opposition says Trump’s order doesn’t go far enough. If more is to be done, however, Congress will have to get involved. Several bills have been introduced to overhaul the visa program. One presented by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley would require companies seeking H-1B visas to make a “good-faith effort” to hire Americans prior to exploring foreign workers. What constitutes a “good-faith effort” will be determined by the Labor Department. The bill would also give foreign students studying in the U.S. the upper hand when applying for H-1B visas.
H-1B visas shouldn’t be confused with the H-2B visa program, which does allow companies like beach and ski resorts to import cheaper, low-skilled labor to serve seasonal positions. Hotels, resorts, restaurants, construction companies and seafood processors got a big boost when a spending bill was approved last year that allows for anyone who obtained an H-2B visa in the last three years to retain it and not count towards the 66,000 visa cap. These jobs will still go to immigrants who will do the work for less. That’s why every time you ski Montana or Colorado or California or Utah there’s rarely a local to be found in uniform. Yet the price of admission never seems to reflect the lower cost of the labor.
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