The Trump administration changed its rules for highly skilled foreign workers who want to live and work in the United States as part of the so-called H-1B visa program, the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security announced Tuesday.
The changes, which the Trump administration has characterized as part of its goal to protect American workers, mean employers will need to commit to higher salaries for those they want to hire and visa applicants will have to have a “specialty occupation” that more narrowly fits their formal qualifications. Visa lengths could also shorten.
“We have entered an era in which economic security is an integral part of homeland security,” Acting Department of Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. “We must do everything we can within the bounds of the law to make sure the American worker is put first.”
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The policy changes have been discussed since 2017 and will be effective within 60 days. Current immigration law allows for about 85,000 H-1B visas each year, according to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Ken Cuccinelli, the No. 2 ranking official at the Department of Homeland Secretary, told reporters on a conference call that he expects about one-third of H-1B visa applications would be rejected under the new set of rules.
The Journal additionally reported that the overhaul of the H-1B visa program could disproportionately affect technology workers. Under the new rule, for example, someone who applies for a job as a software developer wouldn’t be awarded an H-1B visa if that person has a degree in engineering or some other non-computer-programming field.
The action comes less than a week after the Trump administration slashed the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. to a new low next year. The changes permit no more than 15,000 people fleeing war, violence and persecution across the globe to make a new home in America. The U.S. State Department announced the cap.
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Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump administration tightens H-1B visa restrictions for foreign workers