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Data: U.S. State Department via Migration Policy Institute: Note: Including E1, E2, H-1B, H-4, L-1, L-2, O-1, O-2, O-3, TN and TD visas; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus has slammed the door on highly skilled foreign workers — amping up President Trump's push to limit American-based companies' hiring of foreigners.

Why it matters: The restrictions and bottlenecks may outlast the pandemic, especially if Trump wins reelection. Economists warn that could slow the U.S. recovery and reduce competitiveness.

  • But critics of high-skilled worker programs say even more should be done to protect U.S. workers.

Temporary visas for those with "extraordinary" ability (O visas), specialty job skills (H-1B, H-4, L visas), or who are trade professionals or investors (E, TN, TD visas) fell from 61,000 in January to less than 500 in April as the pandemic set in and consulates closed, according to an analysis by Migration Policy Institute.

  • Trump then banned entry for most foreign workers outside the U.S., with proclamations in late April and June.
  • Under other Trump policies, denial rates for the popular high-skilled H-1B visas tripled compared to the end of the Obama administration at 29%, the National Foundation for American Policy found.
  • Temporary, high-skilled visas rose from April to around 2,200 in July — still a far cry from the nearly 61,000 issued last July.

What to watch: Last month the State Department announced broad exemptions to Trump's proclamation, which could allow employers to bring in more foreign workers.

  • Restrictions could force companies to move jobs offshore, TechCrunch reports.
  • Others businesses may simply wait longer or decide not to hire if they can't easily get the foreign talent they need.
  • "Most people view immigration as a zero-sum game. An immigrant comes in and an American loses, and that's not at all the way that economists view that issue," said Chad Sparber, an economics professor at Colgate University.

What they’re saying: "It's not so much just bringing the talent into the country," Jon Baselice, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive director of immigration policy, told Axios. "It's having the talent come here to help start new operations."

The big picture: Between January and May, total temporary and permanent visas issued by the State Department, including for travelers and family members, fell 90%.

  • And officials predict significant drops in overall travel and immigrant visa applications for the next two years compared with 2018, per ProPublica's reporting.
  • "They have literally shut down legal immigration to United States," renowned immigration attorney Charles Kuck told Axios.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

How to develop new skills for a post-pandemic America

The digitized workforce has arrived much earlier than experts previously thought.

What this means: Millions of Americans workers, particularly the nearly 70% who do not have a college degree, could be shut out of America’s fast-changing, techno-centric, post-pandemic economy.

At Google’s Powering Economic Opportunity: Digital Skills for the Future Workforce event, policy makers, thought leaders and experts came together to discuss how companies, nonprofits and governments can future-proof workers.

Key numbers: The Council on Foreign Relations reports that two-thirds of the 13 million jobs created in the U.S. since 2010 require a medium- to advanced-level of digital skills.

The solution, according to several policy makers and experts at the event: Alternative pathways to good-paying, fast-growing jobs.

Their top three potential fixes:

1. Expanding access to technology.

Participants agreed: Broadband access should be treated as a human right, and not a luxury accessible only to the few or to people living in large cities.

The reason: Reliable, affordable internet rests at the center of the future of work – and to economic recovery during and after COVID-19. And closing the digital divide – with more access to technology, for example – between under-resourced communities and their wealthier counterparts is key.

  • But there’s more behind this, as one event guest noted.

Enhancing access to broadband – and other key technologies like laptops and software – is just one step in the right direction. Training adults, not just children, to use these tools is the next.

2. Stepping up efforts to upskill or reskill Americans.

Some companies are already empowering people to develop digital skills that can help them transition into higher-paying, high growth jobs. Here’s how:

  • Training on digital fundamentals, like free Applied Digital Skills courses from Google, to help job seekers establish a foundation upon which they can build on to learn more advanced digital skills.
  • Creating alternative pathways to jobs that go beyond a traditional four-year college degree. Higher education institutions, government, and employers need to work together to give low wage workers access to higher-paying careers, like how the Markle Foundation’s Rework America Alliance and Skillful Initiative support local organizations, employers and governments to connect individuals to good jobs.
  • Developing avenues for employment with private companies after workers have completed skilling programs like Google’s IT Support Certificate, which includes a Hiring Consortium to help workers gain entry into IT Support, a critical job of the future.

What Google is saying:

“There are other Google career certificates coming out that help people move into these high-growth, good-paying jobs with less than a college degree. It's not the only solution, but I think it's one thing we're really excited about.”

– Andrew Dunckelman, Head of Impact and Insights, Google.org.

Why it’s important: Modern technologies, including AI and even cellphones, have slowly uprooted many jobs, leaving the workers with fewer options for work.

  • And this sudden shift is disproportionately impacting women and Black and Latino workers, especially those working in retail, experts at the event said.

3. Developing public-private partnerships that support a well-skilled workforce.

To advance economic recovery, many policy makers and experts at the event outlined the benefits of nonprofits, governments and companies working together to build up America’s digital skills.

  • For example, Google has partnered with different organizations to upskill Americans, like Per Scholas, the American Library Association and Goodwill.

The result: “We've trained more than 5 million Americans on digital skills,” says Andrew Dunckelman. “As we look ahead to recovery, you know, we think that we can help our economy recover quicker by expanding access to digital skills and technologies that Americans need.”

The takeaway: Although the pandemic has accelerated the start of the digitized workforce, together corporations, digital skilling programs and technology can help create better opportunities for all Americans. Learn more.

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.