Nifty IT Slips, the Closed Door Meet Gives IT Giant Jitters
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US President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has been vigorously considering ways to revamp a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs. Chances for reforming the distribution of H1B visas, used mostly by the Information Technology (IT) sector, were discussed at a meeting last month with chief executives of these companies at Trump Tower. IT companies had been skeptical of H1B visas ever since Trump was elected as President and the meeting gave them jitters of the possible outcome.
Trump senior policy advisor Stephen Miller proposed discarding the existing lottery system used to award the visas. A possible alternate system would favor visa petitions for jobs that pay the highest salaries. Earlier, Senator Jefferson Sessions had guaranteed legislators on Thursday about taking steps to push measures to restrain misuse of H1B visas.
These are intended for foreign nationals in “specialty” occupations that usually require higher education, which according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The US government gives away 65,000 H1B visas every year.
Companies say they use these to employ top talent. But, a majority of the visas are granted to outsourcing firms, initiating criticism by skeptics that say those firms use the visas to fill lower-level IT jobs. Critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that inundate the system with mass applications. The H1B visa program tends to be more vital to outsourcing firms than US tech firms.
Behind the curtains:
During the meeting last month in New York, Trump appeared to be searching for middle ground, and members of his transition team raised specific proposals. Trump team has also discussed the idea to change the lottery system internally.
Trump seemed open to modifying the H-1B program. He said he intends to stop “bad people” from immigrating to the United States, not “great people”. Among proposals the group discussed was increasing the cost of applications from large companies as a way to dispirit bulk filing for the visas.
While Trump could kick off some changes to the visa program with executive action, considerable shifts would likely need to go through a lengthy formal rulemaking process. Major changes would probably be subject to court challenges. Other reforms, like changing the visa cap or offering more green cards to high-tech workers, could need Congressional action.
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