Will President Trump reform H-1B visas?
Even if he plans to do so, it likely won’t happen in the short term. During a March 8 press conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the audience of journalists that the H-1B visa program is under review.
“The President’s actions that he’s taken in terms of his executive order and other revamping of immigration policy have focused on our border security, keeping our country safe, our people safe,” Spicer told the press. “And then, obviously, whether it’s H-1B visas or the other one—spousal visas—other areas of student visas, I think there is a natural desire to have a full look at—a comprehensive look at that.”
Spicer was responding to a question about whether Trump plans to revamp the H-1B visa system before April 1, when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) begins accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2017 cap. The U.S. government will grant H-1B visas issued during this period after October 1.
Spicer didn’t define that “comprehensive look.” Although Trump spent his Presidential campaign suggesting that the government end the H-1B visa program altogether (“We shouldn’t have it, it’s very, very bad for workers,” he said at one point.), his administration has yet to push through legislation or executive orders related to it. The USCIS recently suspended premium processing for all H-1B visas, pending a review, but the core program is ongoing.
Soon after his election, Trump hosted a meeting of prominent tech leaders at Trump Tower in New York City. Attendees included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Tesla/Space X CEO Elon Musk. Immigration came up as a topic, with Trump reportedly amenable to modifying the H-1B program.
“In our view, the President-elect is not hostile to H-1B visas,” an anonymous source familiar with those discussions told Reuters at the time.
Is Trump stepping back from his campaign’s hardline position on H-1Bs? It’s too soon to tell: this administration has a number of other priorities, including healthcare and tax reform, occupying its time and attention. But as Trump continues to speak with tech leaders, he may prove more amenable to the program than people thought at first. Wait and see.