Trump Moves to Cut Back H-1B Visas, Tighten Rules

The Trump administration moved Oct. 6 to cut back H-1B visas for foreign skilled workers and tightened wage-based entry barriers citing “data” that more than 500,000 Americans have lost their jobs because of “H-1B non-immigrants.” India and China account for the lion’s share of H-1B visas. As per U.S. government data, India accounts for upwards of 70 percent, most years.

In a call with reporters, Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said about one-third of the people who have applied for H-1B visas would be denied under the new rules. With Trump laid up with COVID-19, his poll numbers tanking and less than 30 days to go before the U.S. election, the timing of the H-1B visa hammering is business as usual for foreign workers.

“It would have been a surprise if this hadn’t happened,” an H-1B worker on site at JP Morgan in New York City told IANS. The worker asked not to be named. The salary requirement will be a “game changer” in favor of the Trump administration, this worker said.

Many H-1B workers expressed a version of the same sentiment. They’ve seen this movie before. It’s Trump’s all-base, all the time anthem to fire up his most vocal supporters, they said.

The latest blow comes as the ducks line up across multiple departments that coordinate and monitor the crisscrossing elements of foreign worker visas: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Labor’s revisions to minimum salary requirements take effect Oct. 8 and the DHS’ H-1B revisions will hit home in 60 days. “When seeking to employ an H-1B, H-1B1, or E-3 visa, U.S. employers must attest that they will pay non-immigrant workers, during the period of authorized employment, the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid to other employees with similar experience and qualifications,” the Department of Labor announced.

The gaslighting of the “low cost H-1B pay check is a well worn anthem and has become louder in the Trump years. The word “undercut” was used multiple times on Oct. 6 in a round robin of smoothly coordinated press-releases and telephonic briefings across the DOL and DHS.

The DOL rule will raise the four salary tiers for employees on H-1Bs and other professional visas, which currently begin at the 17th percentiles for each industry, to the 45th percentile.

“Under the existing wage levels, artificially low prevailing wages provide an opportunity for employers to hire and retain foreign workers at wages well below what their US counterparts – meaning U..S workers in the same labor market, performing similar jobs, and possessing similar levels of education, experience, and responsibility – make, creating an incentive – entirely at odds with the statutory scheme – to prefer foreign workers to U.S. workers, and causing downward pressure on the wages of the domestic workforce,” reads an excerpt from the DOL interim final rule.

The Department is also tightening the screws on the definition of “specialty occupation” to make it align with what it calls the “verbatim” description.

In parallel, DHS will narrow the definition of “specialty occupation,” require companies to make “real” offers to “real employees,” and turbocharge its own ability to ensure compliance “before, during, and after an H1-B petition is approved.”

“Data shows that the more than a half million H-1B non-immigrants in the United States have been used to displace U.S. workers,” reads a statement from the Department of Homeland Security

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