Trump freezes skilled work visas, green cards

The US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an order temporarily banning access to several employment-based visas, news wires reported. The move will affect hundreds of thousands of people seeking to work in the US.

The order freezes new H1-B and H-4 visas, used by technology workers and their families, as well as L visas for intracompany transfers and most J visas for work- and study-abroad programmes, including au pairs, through the end of the year.

The issuance of new green cards will also remain halted through the end of the year.

The action will also pause some H2-B visas for seasonal workers, with an exception for those in the food-processing industry. The president’s order won’t affect immigrant workers who already hold the visas.

Twitter and Amazon called the order “short-sighted,” saying immigrant tech labour could help the US economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said on Twitter he was “disappointed” and that “we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”

Trump explained the restrictions with the pandemic lockdown. “Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programmes authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” Trump said in his order. Speaking Saturday in an interview with Fox News, Trump pointed out he wants Americans to take jobs that would otherwise go to people granted the visas. “We have plenty of people looking for jobs,” he said.

The US issued more than 900,000 visas in fiscal year 2019 in the categories Trump plans to freeze, Bloomberg noted.

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