Apr 1, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Some Trump policies make life harder for highly-skilled foreigners

President Donald Trump (R) at a White House meeting on immigration reform. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Trump has repeatedly called for a “merit-based” immigration system that his administration claimed will benefit thousands of highly-skilled migrants. But, as the AP reports, the Trump administration has made choices that are making it more difficult for skilled foreigners to obtain and retain work visas in the United States.

Why it matters: As Axios' Steve LeVine reported last week, the added difficulties to working in the U.S. — and simply, the uncertainties around the future — are causing the highly-skilled foreign workers that Trump covets to look elsewhere for jobs. One of the main beneficiaries? Canada.

What's happening:

  • His administration ended an Obama-era policy last year that had allowed foreign entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. to start companies. The visa was renewable for a 30-month term.
  • Trump is mulling a plan to halt work permits for the spouses of H-1B visa holders, which would ultimately discourage discourage H-1B visa applicants from staying in the country.
  • The H-1B visa program, the main avenue for high-skilled foreign workers to enter the country, currently allocates 85,000 visas annually, but the process for approval has become noticeably more strict. Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which advocates for H1-B visas, told the AP: "We’ve got employees that are going through the process, who have gone through such a level of scrutiny and interrogatory that is unprecedented."

But, but, but: Joanne Fereirra, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the AP that 92.5% of the visas are still approved, only 2% lower than under the Obama administration in 2016.

  • “The stuff that they’re actually doing is not so much restricting skilled immigration as enforcing the law,” Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank that supports reducing immigration, told the AP. “They’re rolling back some of the extralegal measures that other administrations have taken.”
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