What is an H-1B Visa, How Did Trump Reform It, & Who’s Affected?

What is an H-1B Visa, How Did Trump Reform It, & Who’s Affected?

H-1B Visas in the U.S. are granted to U.S. employers as a means to hire talent overseas, longterm and legally. H-1B visas are allotted to foreign workers that are qualified for specialty positions and occupations. Until Trump’s H-1B reform, an H-1B served as one of the only means to hiring a high-skilled foreign national to work for extensive periods of time in America. The recent and dramatic changes that the Trump Administration evoked on H1-B’s has put staffing companies, working immigrants and their families into turbulence. Tech companies have been especially damaged by this reform, as a substantial amount of their employees are foreign and working under H1-Bs. 

The major adjustments made to the H1-B visa program will greatly challenge a U.S. employer’s ability to hire qualified workers from overseas. Firstly, the H1-B revision draws up a new understanding of “specialty occupations”, narrowing what used to be a broad definition into something that: A) Limits the number of degrees that qualify for the H1-B program, B) Raises the wages paid to H-1B workers, and C) Shortens the length of certain contract worker’s visas. Until now, foreigners who earned a bachelor’s degree were eligible for specialty occupations, but now they’re required to be specialists in the exact field of work. This revision will effect employers across the nation, especially tech companies who receive a substantial number of H1-B’s every year to provide their foreign hires. According to acting deputy DHS secretary Ken Cuccinelli, about one out of every three of the recent year’s H1-B visa applicants would be denied under the new rules.₁ 

Secondly, the H1-B reform discourages the use of H-1B workers by refusing employers the ability to hire foreign talent as low-cost replacement for otherwise qualified American workers. President Trump claims that this alteration safeguards American employment opportunities by ensuring “real” offers are made to “real employees”, however, it is more accurately understood as an attempt to price qualified H-1B workers out of the U.S. labor market. This new rule neglects to acknowledge the existence of a global market in labor, and instead artificially raises the price of H1-B labor in order to push employers away from hiring people from other countries. Prior to this reform, the Department of Labor (DOL) methodology was based on the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupational field. The new DOL regulation dismisses statistics from the table, instead inviting politics to sit at the head of the table to control the prevailing wage. This new DOL regulation is problematic for more reasons than one, but it is particularly troublesome because it pushes the prevailing wage well above what data evidences it to be. By artificially raising the prevailing wage, the labor market is completely disrupted and the entire essence of the prevailing wage is lost. Employers will be forced to make the impossible decision upon whether to comply with the new H1-B wage requirements, or to comply with law enforcing equal, nondiscriminatory pay.

Work Cited:

1. Anderson, Stuart. “Trump Administration Issues Two New Rules To Restrict H-1B Visas.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 9 Oct. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2020/10/07/trump-administration-issues-two-new-rules-to-restrict-h-1b-visas/?sh=70299a125120.

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