executive order

Trump Issues Executive Order on H-1B Visas Under ‘America First’ Campaign

By Peek & Toland on April 19, 2017

Trump Issues Executive Order on H-1B Visas Under ‘America First’ Campaign
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on H-1B visas this month, ordering a review intended to eliminate abuses of the system.

Trump signed the executive order on April 18 at the headquarters of hand and power tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc. in Wisconsin. He said it will help American workers whose jobs are threatened by skilled immigrants. The order outlines a fundamental review of the system by agency heads.

Trump took aim at what he said are hiring abuses in a visa program heavily used by U.S. technology companies. He issued the order as part of his ‘America First’ campaign.
The H-1B visa program is one of the most important mechanisms companies use to bring skilled overseas workers to the United States. There is a cap of 65,000 visas issued every year and a 20,000 cap for master’s visas. Immigration authorities receive far more applications than visas are available and they go into a lottery system. In April, 236,000 H-1B visa applications were received.

Trump was critical of the H-1B visa system during the election campaign. In March, the Trump administration suspended the expediting of H-1B visas.The executive order is the first comprehensive announcement from the Trump administration about the fate of the H-1B program. However, the executive order is vague and leaves unanswered questions, according to commentators.

What the New Executive Order on H-1B Visas is Likely to Do

1. Force Companies to Pay More
Concerns that companies are using H-1B visas to hire cheap foreign workers who undercut the local workforce means the review is likely to up the wages employers must pay visa recipients.
The administration has indicated it will change the way the “prevailing wage” is worked out for H-1B visa calculations. It could start handing out visas for the highest-paid jobs and best-educated employees instead of giving work to any applicant who meets the basic requirements for the visa.

2. Crack Down on Outsourcing Firms Using Visas
The executive order is also intended to target outsourcing firms that apply for large numbers of H-1Bs to staff call centers. These firms are accused of bringing tech workers over from India on low wages for short time periods. Requiring firms to pay more could be a disincentive to the outsourcing firms.

3. Ending the Lottery
Trump has pledged to end the “random lottery” presently used to allocate the 85,000 H-1B visas every April and to replace it with a “merit-based” system.

4. Seek New Rules from Agencies to Stop Abuse of the System
The order directs U.S. agencies to propose rules that will prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the program.

What the New Executive Order on H-1B Visas Doesn’t Do

1. Provides a timetable for changes to the H-1B visa system
While agencies have been asked to come up with proposals, no timetable is set out in the order for the implementation of changes. However, the order says department heads should submit a report within 220 days of the date of the order and “shall include specific recommendations to strengthen implementation of Buy American Laws, including domestic procurement preference policies and programs.”

2. Set out a Mechanism for Change
Changes to the H-1B visa program require Congressional approval because the terms of the program are set out in the 1965 Immigration and Nationalization Act. The executive order does not contain any guidance about how changes would be implemented.

3. Provide Hard Figures
The executive order does not suggest a wage companies should pay skilled foreign workers or give guidance about the number of visas that will be issued in the future.

Notwithstanding the many unanswered questions, it’s clear the government’s direction on H-1B visas is a restrictive one. In these confusing times it makes sense to hire an experienced Austin business and immigration lawyer. Call us at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

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Trump’s Immigration Executive Order -– Should You Travel?

By Peek & Toland on March 16, 2017

Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration issued in January caused widespread chaos at airports and confusion.

Also known as the “travel ban,” the order was meant to keep refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. It would have kept arrivals from seven predominantly Muslim nations out for three months. The countries were Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. The ban on Syrians was intended to be indefinite. The order was derailed in the courts and replaced by a second order in March which removed Iraq from a 90-day travel ban, did not apply to green card holders and did not make Syria the subject of a blanket ban. Syrian refugees would be banned for 120 days, reported NBC News. Visas approved before the order were not revoked.

A Seattle-based federal district judge, James Robart, blocked major parts of the first ban on 3 February, in a ruling that permitted thousands of people to enter the country. Three judges from the ninth circuit court of appeals in San Francisco upheld Robart’s ruling. The panel said the administration failed to present any evidence that citizens of any of the seven countries carried out a terrorist attack in the US.

The immigration executive order was the “extreme vetting” Trump promised during the election campaign.

Why Trump's immigration executive order caused airport chaos

Trump’s immigration executive order caused chaos at airports

It sparked chaos, demonstrations and legal challenges. A report on CNN said the President’s team failed to run the travel ban past Justice Department officials.

There was widespread misunderstanding and confusion. The ban:

  • Impacted green card holders from the seven countries as well as those with valid visas;
  • Meant some people who were flying when the order was signed were not able to enter the United States.
  • Affected some people with dual nationalities which included passports from a nation, not on the list, were detained at airports.

The government appeared to backtrack on the ban in relation to green card holders 24 hours after the original immigration executive order was signed but suggested they would be subject to intensive vetting.

Lawsuits began to fly, and a federal judge temporarily and partially blocked Trump’s order.

Later, a federal judge in New York allowed an emergency stay for citizens of the countries included in the ban and ruled they could not be removed from the United States. A federal court in Washington issued a stay preventing travelers being detained from being returned to their home country.

In Boston, federal judges ruled officials did not have the power to detain people on the basis of the immigration executive order.

On Feb. 7, three federal judges from the ninth circuit court of appeals took evidence from lawyers from the Justice Department and Washington State about whether the judicial block on the travel ban should be lifted. They declined to lift it.

Should You Leave the County After the Immigration Executive Order?

These are confusing and difficult times for immigrants and those on visas. If you are from the seven affected countries, you should be wary of travel out of the United States, until the executive orders are clarified.

In early February, CNN reported Trump administration was easing restrictions on legal permanent residents who were initially affected by the travel ban.

The administration was reported to be close to closing an agreement with Canada. It would allow Canadian legal permanent residents with US visas to enter the United States.

This is a fast-moving situation. If you are from one of the seven affected countries, you should be careful about traveling unless you are a U.S. citizen. If you are a permanent resident, you should carry your green card with you all time. Keep a photocopy in a safe place at home. Non-immigrants who are lawfully present in the United States should also carry their documentation and have a photocopy in a safe place.

The legal framework should become clearer in the next few weeks but the legal stand-off may drag on.

Our Austin immigration lawyers can help you with questions. Read our frequently asked questions here to find out more about the firm or call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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