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H1B visas: Radical changes proposed by Donald Trump administration

US President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is considering scrapping the existing lottery system used to issue the H1B visas. Here is what he has said so far


US President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated on 20 January. Photo: AFP
US President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated on 20 January. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to augment jobs in the US during his campaign. To achieve this, he has unequivocally stated that his administration will prevent outsourcing as well as revamp the H1B visa programme that allows US companies to hire high-skilled foreign workers at the cost of locals. Trump’s transition team is already up to task on that, according to Reuters, and his senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has proposed scrapping the existing lottery system, which issues about 65,000 visas and another 20,000 to foreign students in the US annually.

Miller has instead suggested a system that would favour visa petitions for jobs and very high application fees. The proposals were discussed at the Tech Summit when Trump and his team met CEOs from the Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, Senator Jefferson Sessions, Trump’s nominee for the post of attorney general assured legislators on Thursday during his confirmation hearing about taking steps to push measures to curb the misuse of H1B and L1 visas.

Here is what Trump and the members of his transition team have said so far on H1B visas issue:

■ “It’s simply wrong to think that we’re in a totally open world and that any American with a job can be replaced if somebody in the world is willing to take a job for less pay,” Sessions told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing.

■ “In order for America to lead again, we need to ensure we can retain the world’s best and brightest talent. At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers,” Republican Congressman Darrell Issa said. Issa along with Scott Peters (both from California) introduced the ‘Protect and Grow American Jobs Act’, on 5 January. The Bill makes important changes to the eligibility requirements for H1B Visa exemptions such as the increase in the minimum salary of H-1B visa to $100,000 per annum and eliminates the masters degree exemption.

■ “Curbing abuse of the H1B system will protect American jobs and help ensure that visas are available for innovators who need them to maintain a competitive workforce. This bipartisan bill makes one of the much-needed updates to our high-skilled visa system to level the playing field and help prevent companies from taking advantage of the system to offshore jobs,” Peters said.

■ “We will fight to protect every last American life. During the campaign I also spent time with American workers who were laid off and forced to train. The foreign workers brought in to replace them. We won’t let this happen anymore,” Trump told thousands of his supporters in Iowa on 8 December 2016 as he referred to the cases of Disney world and other US companies.

■ “In light of both current needs and historic practice, we urge the reform of our guest worker programmes to eliminate fraud, improve efficiency and ensure they serve the national interest. In light of the alarming levels of unemployment and underemployment in this country, it is indefensible to continue offering lawful permanent residence to more than one million foreign nationals every year,” said the Republican platform, which was approved by the party leadership on 18 July 2016 during its convention in Cleveland.

■ “By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified US workers,” said Senators Bill Nelson of the Democratic Party and Jeff Sessions of the Republican Party while introducing a legislation in the Senate proposing to cut the number of popular H-1B visas by 15,000 and that such a visa be given to highest wage earner first.

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