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Trump’s next immigration order could be bad news for the tech sector

Trump's Immigration Visa Reform

President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is wreaking havoc at airports across the country, but the administration still won’t take any action to fix it in spite of all the negative feedback it’s received over the weekend. Judges, high-ranking Republicans, movie stars, and tech companies have expressed their concern with Trump’s ban over the last few days. But Trump is still defending his executive orders, and the Trump administration is working on a new immigration-related order that might deliver a blow to American tech innovation.

According to a document obtained by Bloomberg, Trump is looking to make it harder for companies including Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and many others, to hire talent from other countries. But these aren’t the only tech companies that might be affected by the move. India-based companies including Infosys and Wipro who bring in specialized employees to handle tech departments at other corporations.

The new work-visa programs would force tech companies to first offer jobs to Americans first, and only then recruit foreign workers, with priority given to the most highly paid.

“Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest,” the draft proposal says. “Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American employees and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers — our forgotten working people — and the jobs they hold.”

Bloomberg notes that recent years there have been allegations that visa programs have been abused to bring in cheaper workers from overseas. The top recipients of the H-1B visas are outsourcers, the report says. Trump’s rumored move might have a larger impact on Indian companies than American tech companies.

“If firms are using the program for cheap labor, I think it will affect them, and they will have to pay workers more,” Howard University professor Ron Hira speculates. “If tech firms are using the program for specialized labor, they may find there are more visas available.”

Hira’s research shows that Apple, Google, and Microsoft are paying H-1B workers more than $100,000, while the median wage for outsourcing firms was less than $70,000. This might be an indication that American companies are going after highly skilled employees, whereas Indian outsourcing firms might seek less expensive talent.

In theory, Trump’s rumored visa order might not make it more difficult for the tech sector to hire essential, high-end workers. But then again, the Muslim ban is causing quite a stir right now, suggesting that Trump’s administration did not think it through. Combined with new visa regulation, these immigration policies might make it harder for American tech giants to recruit people from overseas.

Independent of Trump’s upcoming order, Congress is also working on visa reform. Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren introduced a bill last week to tighten requirements for H-1B visas.

Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he knew it he was sharing his views on tech stuff with readers around the world. Whenever he's not writing about gadgets he miserably fails to stay away from them, although he desperately tries. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

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