Businesses Oppose Expected Limits on Temporary Professional Workers

In a May 21, 2020 letter to the administration, over 300 businesses and organizations opposed a widely anticipated action to curtail nonimmigrant visa programs for professional level workers.

The April 22, 2020 Presidential Proclamation suspending entry of immigrants for 60 days promised to examine whether certain categories of nonimmigrants (temporary visa holders) should also be halted since allegedly they compete with and lower the wages of U.S. workers.

Potentially affected nonimmigrants include foreign students doing curricular or post-graduate practical training (OPT), professional level workers such as multinational corporation intracompany transferees (L-1 visas) and specialized knowledge professionals (H-1Bs) and their spouses (H-4s), and reportedly, H-2B seasonal non-agricultural workers.

The letter particularly focuses on the impact that halting or limiting these programs would have in STEM fields.   As this Forbes commentary summarizes:

What is at stake is the ability of U.S. employers to access uniquely skilled professional workers from outside the United States, job creation from the know-how and innovation they bring, and the economic impact their entrepreneurship can provide to reinvigorate the American economy.

A recent report highlights that H-1B visa holders don’t adversely affect the prospects of U.S. workers with similar skills and education, and that during the recovery from the Great Recession, areas with fewer H-1B workers recovered more slowly than those with higher H-1B visa approvals.

This op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (paywall) even predicts that any action to halt professional nonimmigrant visas will end up benefiting China,  giving it  “a critical opportunity ‘to bolster its ranks of high-end talent.’ Chinese companies could win two simultaneous victories: Their U.S. competitors would be weakened, and they could recruit much-needed talent from overseas.”   The op-ed projects that any presidential action would hit the U.S. semiconductor industry particularly hard.

Several Senate Republicans recently wrote to the President asserting that “(g)uest  workers are needed to boost American business, not take American jobs” and that “vulnerable American businesses across all industry sectors, including farming, forestry, packing, hospitality, healthcare, and communications and information technology…rely on non-immigrant guest workers to survive.”

At this writing, the President had yet to announce which nonimmigrant visa categories will be cut, but few expect temporary working visas to remain untouched.