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The Trump Administration's Decision to Crack Down on H-1B Visa Program Abuses is bound to Upset Silicon Valley



Fed up with a program it says favors foreign workers at the expense of Americans, the Trump administration rolled out a trio of policy shifts. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency on Friday made it harder for companies to bring overseas tech workers to the U.S. using the H-1B work visa. 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 U.S. workers.


Bloomberg's report further noted that "Trump campaigned on a promise 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.


While tech companies will no doubt complain about the policy, there's also broad recognition that reform is needed, given several high-profile examples where American employees have been replaced by lower-paid foreign workers through the program. Advocates for immigrants' rights also argue H-1B workers are easily exploited because their legal status is tied to a particular employer


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. Shares of Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., Infosys Ltd., Wipro Ltd. and Accenture Plc each slipped more than 1 percent on Monday.


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. It's effective immediately, so it will change how companies apply for the visas in an annual lottery process that begins Monday.


Ron Hira, an associate professor at Howard University, who has done extensive research on the H-1B program said that 'This is a step in the right direction in terms of tightening up the eligibility. You're going to have to beef up your argument for why you need this person.'



Technology and outsourcing companies are the heaviest users of the H-1B visa, which is the largest program for temporary foreign workers in the U.S. by a wide margin. India-based outsourcing companies receive a disproportionate percentage of the visas and tend to pay lower salaries than U.S.-based tech firms. Employers sought H-1B visas for more than 13,000 computer programmers in 2016, citing an average salary of about $72,000, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Caitlin Webber. About half of the visas sought last year were for computer-related positions, she said."


In the coming days we're bound to hear the reaction from Silicon Valley's top players that is bound to be against the new rules.


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