By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) – The Trump administration announced a rule on Wednesday likely to curb the use of skilled foreign workers by US companies, particularly in the tech industry, which officials say was necessary to protect American jobs amid mass unemployment. caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The joint rule by the Department of Labor and the US Department of Homeland Security will significantly increase the minimum wage that companies must pay to workers enrolled in the H-1B visa program. It will also reduce the definition of “specialty occupations” eligible for H-1B visas.
The rule, which takes effect in early December, will likely face criticism from trade groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce, who say the H-1B program is necessary due to a shortage of skilled US workers.
More than two-thirds of H-1B visa holders come from India and are disproportionately employed by tech companies, according to government statistics.
Kenneth Cuccinelli, acting director of Homeland Security, said in a call with reporters Wednesday that the new rule was designed largely to deny visas to outside contractors who provide workers to US companies.
He said contractors exploit loopholes in existing regulations that allow them to pay H-1B holders much less than their American counterparts.
“Companies have been incentivized to avoid hiring Americans or even laying off their own better-paid, skilled American workers and replacing them with cheaper foreign labor,” Cuccinelli said.
President Donald Trump in June banned H-1B workers and some other visa holders from entering the United States until the end of the year, citing the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
The Chamber and other business groups have sued the administration over the entry ban, saying it has created unnecessary obstacles for employers.
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