DHS Pauses Fast-Track H-1B Approvals for Six Months
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security have announced they are temporarily closing a fast-track process for companies seeking to hire foreign professionals via the controversial H-1B outsourcing program.
The decision by officials working for DHS chief John Kelly to shut the “premium processing” loophole for six months will likely delay approval of H-1B visa requests for months, say employers and some immigration lawyers who make their living by importing foreign replacement workers into the United States.
The bureaucratic maneuver is not a full reform of the program, which now allows at least 650,000 lower-wage foreign professionals to work throughout the United States in jobs sought by young American graduates and by experienced professionals trying to get their own teenagers into college.
The maneuver may not even reduce the annual inflow of foreign workers, but it buys time for President Donald Trump, who repeatedly promised to reform the program during the 2016 campaign. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” he said in a March 2016 statement. “No exceptions,” he added.
The new decision comes a four weeks before April 1, when Trump’s deputies were required by law to quickly distribute roughly 65,000 more H-1B visas to U.S. and foreign companies eager to import cheap white-collar contract-workers into the U.S. labor market.
The H-1B program is politically unpopular among white-collar professionals because it transfers U.S. professional jobs to foreign workers. Numerous polls show Americans overwhelmingly favor policies that get Americans and immigrants into jobs ahead of additional immigrants or contract- workers.
But the H-1B program is backed by many prestigious companies which are trying to reduce the payroll costs of their professional employees. The companies include Google, Microsft, Amazon, Facebook, Comcast, Carnival, Disney, McDonalds, Caterpillar and Uber.
Trump’s removal of the fast-track process was slammed by immigration lawyers and by advocates for cheap white-collar labor.
The H-1B is only one of several contract-worker programs used by companies to import foreign professionals. Overall, the population of foreign white-collar contract-workers in the United Sates is at least 1 million, because at least two other additional contract-worker programs include at least 300,000 foreign white-collar contract-workers.
The program annually hands out at least 110,000 multi-year visas to foreign workers, and also creates a huge a resident population of at least 650,000 foreign doctors, scientists, managers, professors, software experts, statisticians, pharmacists, and designers.
The H-1B program is also used by many U.S-based Indian foutsourcing firms, who usually rent their H-1B employees to brand-name American companies.
U.S. universities also have used the program to build a workforce of 100,000 H-1bs in prestigious jobs, including professors, doctors and scientists.
The increased supply of foreign graduates pushes many middle-aged American professionals out of their careers, and pushes younger American graduates into different careers with lower salaries. The sidelined American professionals and their families have been a huge source of support for Trump among university-educated voters because of Trump’s promise to reform the program.