US President Donald Trump has launched a crackdown on a work visa program that channels thousands of skilled overseas workers to companies across the technology industry, Bloomberg reports.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency on Friday made it harder for companies to bring overseas tech workers to the United States using the H-1B work visa, the report said.
On Monday the agency issued a memo laying out new measures to combat what it called “fraud and abuse” in the program.
The Justice Department also warned employers applying for the visas not to discriminate against US workers, according to Bloomberg.
During the election campaign, Trump had promised to overhaul the immigration system, calling for companies to hire more Americans instead of outsourcing jobs to countries with cheaper labor or bringing in lower-paid foreign workers.
Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, many of which were founded or run by immigrants, depend on H-1Bs and say efforts to thwart immigration threaten innovation, recruitment and startup formation.
Trump’s executive orders restricting travel from a handful of Muslim-majority nations led to unprecedented opposition from the industry.
But there’s also broad recognition that reform is needed, given several high-profile examples where American employees have been replaced by lower-paid foreign workers through the program, Bloomberg said.
Advocates for immigrants’ rights also argue H-1B workers are easily exploited because their legal status is tied to a particular employer.
The Economic Policy Institute estimated there were about 460,000 people working on H-1B visas in 2013.
Last month, the immigration department suspended a system that expedited visa processing for certain skilled workers who paid extra.
Outsourcing firms are considered the worst abusers of the system, an impression that the tech industry has been happy to encourage.
Monday’s USCIS announcement targets those firms, with the agency saying it will focus inspections on workplaces with the largest percentage of H-1B workers, and those with employees who do IT work for other companies.
The new guidelines released Friday require additional information for computer programmers applying for H-1B visas to prove the jobs are complicated and require more advanced knowledge and experience.
Technology and outsourcing companies are the heaviest users of the H-1B visa, which is the largest program for temporary foreign workers in the US by a wide margin, the report said.
India-based outsourcing companies receive a disproportionate percentage of the visas and tend to pay lower salaries than US-based tech firms.
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