President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has been actively considering ways to revamp a temporary visa programme used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Possibilities for reforming the distribution of H-1B visas, which are used largely by the tech industry, were discussed at a meeting last month with chief executives of tech companies at Trump Tower, said two sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorised to talk about the closed-door talks.
Trump senior policy advisor Stephen Miller proposed scrapping the existing lottery system used to award the visas. A possible replacement system would favour visa petitions for jobs that pay the highest salaries, according to the sources.
H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in “specialty” occupations that generally require higher education, which according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The government awards 65,000 every year.
Companies say they use them to recruit top talent. But a majority of the visas are awarded to outsourcing firms, sparking criticism by sceptics that say those firms use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs. Critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications.
The H-1B visa programme tends to be more critical to outsourcing firms than US tech firms. For instance, more than 60 per cent of the US employees of Indian outsourcing firm Infosys are H-1B holders, and the company in its annual report has cited an increase in visa costs as among factors that could hurt its profitability.
The top 10 recipients of H-1B visas in 2015 were all outsourcing firms, according to government data compiled by the IEEE-USA, a professional organisation representing US engineers. Sixty-five per cent of H-1B petitions approved in the 2014 financial year went to tech workers, mostly from India, according to USCIS.
Trump, who has applied for H-1B visas to bring in foreign workers to his own businesses sent mixed messages about the programme on the campaign trail. He assailed it for taking jobs from US workers, but during a Republican debate last March said he was “softening” his position “because we have to have talented people in this country”.
He later issued a statement on his website saying he would “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labour programme.” Trump businesses, like Trump National Golf Club and Trump Model Management, have received permission to bring in more than two dozen foreign employees on H-1B visas since 2011, according to Labour Department data.
During the meeting last month in New York, Trump seemed to be searching for middle ground, and members of his transition team raised specific proposals, the two sources said. A third source familiar with the talks said the Trump team has also discussed the plan to change the lottery system internally.
There were more than a dozen top tech executives from some of America’s largest tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Apple, present at the meeting. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said technology companies need to be able to recruit talent from abroad when necessary.
Trump seemed open to modifying the H-1B programme, the sources said. He said he wanted to stop “bad people” from immigrating to the US, not “great people,” according to one account of the meeting.
Among proposals the group discussed was raising the cost of applications from large companies as a way to discourage bulk filing for the visas. Asked by Trump if they would object to that, none of the tech CEOs said they would.
Japan’s contribution to the US economy
Japan is embarking on a crash course to educate Team Trump about Japan’s contribution to the US economy in the hopes of keeping out of line of fire after President-elect Donald Trump
takes office. To make their case with hard numbers, Japan’s government has prepared a briefing paper its officials are using in talks with US counterparts. The document, seen by Reuters, has not been released, and sources would not say if it had been shown to Trump or senior members of his team. Some highlights of the document are:
People employed by foreign companies in the US
Tokyo courts Washington
Trump has lumped Japan with China and Mexico as big contributors to America’s trade deficit— a perception that Japanese officials are desperate to correct
Tokyo is keen to erase any lingering legacy of US-Japan trade wars fought in autos, steel and semiconductors in the 1980s and early 1990s
Toyota’s North America Chief Executive Jim Lentz said on Monday the company would invest $10 bn in the US over 5 years
On Tuesday, Toyota President Akio Toyoda met US Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a former governor of Indiana, a state where — according to the fact sheet — Japanese firms employed 47,400 people as of 2014