WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration said on Monday that it will extend a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and add many temporary work visas to the freeze, including visas that are heavily used by technology companies and multinational companies.
The administration did its best to free up jobs in an economy suffering from the coronavirus. A senior official who spoke to journalists on the condition of anonymity estimated that the restrictions will free up to 525,000 jobs for Americans.
The ban, although temporary, would mean a major restructuring of legal immigration if it were made permanent, an objective that the government had missed before the pandemic. Long-term changes are also being sought for asylum seekers and high-tech workers.
Business groups pushed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, signifying a victory for immigration hardliners as Trump strives to further strengthen their support for the November election.
The ban on new visas applies to H-1B visas, which are widely used by workers of major US and Indian technology companies and their families, H-2B visas for seasonal non-agricultural workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational companies.
There will be exceptions for food processing workers, who make up about 15% of H-2B visas, the official said. Healthcare workers helping to fight the coronavirus will be spared the green card freeze, although their exemption will be narrower.
Trump banned a 60-day ban on green cards issued abroad in April, which would expire on Monday. That announcement, which was largely aimed at family members, received a surprisingly chilly reception from immigration hardliners, who said the president was not going far enough.
The new steps to include non-immigrant visas have long moved towards calming hardliners.
“This is a bold move by the Trump administration to protect US jobs,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, who advocates for restrictions. “Not all items on our necessary actions checklist are included in today’s announcement, but the company’s lobbyists who were desperate for exceptions to protect their customers’ access to low-cost foreign workers have been largely rejected.”
BSA, a group representing major software companies, urged the administration to reconsider its changes, particularly in the H-1B program, and said they will hamper economic recovery by making it more difficult to enter critical positions. to fill.
“Fulfilling these positions that are more abundant than the number of US workers qualified to fill them means that these jobs can be retained in the US,” the group said. “This allows companies in the US to remain competitive globally, which in turn boosts the US economy, creating jobs for millions of Americans.”
A pro-immigration group with strong Silicon Valley support, FWD.us, said the steps “will not only hinder efforts to save lives, but also prevent job creation and damage our economy as our country struggles to recover . “
The freezing of visas issued abroad is intended to enter into force immediately. Other changes, including restrictions on work permits for asylum seekers, will go through a formal regulatory process that will take months.
The administration is proposing a new way to grant H-1B visas, the official said, allocating them to the highest salary instead of a lottery.
H-1B visas are limited to 85,000 per year for those with “highly specialized knowledge” and at least a bachelor’s degree, often in science, technology, engineering, education and accounting. Critics say high-tech companies have used visas as a means of outsourcing jobs to foreigners, replacing Americans.
Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. was the largest H-1B employer in fiscal year 2018, followed by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Deloitte Consulting LLP and Microsoft Corp. Other major employers include Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. , Google and Facebook Inc.
Spagat reported from San Diego.
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