UPDATE: Jan. 5, 2021: President Donald Trump extended the order halting the issue of new H-1B visas through March 31, according an executive order last week. Trump cited continued disruption from COVID-19 and the reduction in seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs, though the November unemployment rate of 6.7% was up from April's high of 14.7%.
The Trump administration will temporarily stop issuing new H-1B work visas through Dec. 31 in a bid to prioritize the employment of U.S. workers, according to an executive order Monday. In addition to visas for workers with specialized education, the suspension also applies to visas for seasonal workers, intracompany transfers, exchange visitor visas and au pairs, among others.
The suspension is an expansion and extension of the April executive order, which temporarily stopped the issuance of new green cards. The U.S. government will stop issuing new immigrant visas through the end of the year, a move the administration says will leave 525,000 jobs for U.S. workers, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said on Twitter Monday.
The order impacts travel to the U.S., but does not affect visa extensions or change of status applications. The Trump administration is also working on H-1B visa program reforms, which will prioritize workers "offered the highest wages."
The order Monday is an extension of the Trump administration's efforts to limit the employment of foreign workers in the U.S., building on moves critics say has caused a chilling effect.
While the administration has made tweaks to the H-1B program since it took office, recent changes are in response to elevated unemployment rates, which reached 13.3% in May, though some estimate it's closer to 16.3%.
The government wants to prioritize the rehiring of U.S. workers, but many H-1B visa holders are often highly-skilled technical workers that supplement an in-demand talent market. Nearly two-thirds of H-1B visa requests are for workers in the STEM field, according to the American Immigration Council.
The tech sector has lambasted the Trump administration's push to limit immigration. "Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world’s talent or create uncertainty and anxiety," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, on Twitter Monday. "Immigrants play a vital role at our company and support our country’s critical infrastructure."
Suspending the "H-1B visa program is bad for the U.S.," said Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera and founder and CEO of Landing AI, on Twitter Monday.
U.S. executives have long called for H-1B visa reform and streamlining the program to increase access for talent. In the high-tech world, demand is ample and businesses leaders want to tap into the foreign talent market to grow technical fields.
Tighter immigration policies in the U.S. could push more employers to expand outside the U.S., reports CIO Dive sister publication HR Dive.