It wasn’t too long when living the American dream was a goal for every aspiring immigrant, especially from the tech sector. A dream that was still within the boundaries of achievement for most. However, with new restrictions on H1B being placed under the trump administration, immigrating to the U.S is harder than ever, with repercussions being felt by both aspiring immigrants and Americans alike.
President Trump won the U.S. elections in 2016 fighting as a Republican party candidate against Hillary Clinton, a Democrat party candidate. The Republicans won by a margin of 77 points, with Donald Trump becoming the president of the United States of America.
One of the key agendas during the election campaign was immigration. Hillary Clinton had chosen to implement legislation that would qualify eligible undocumented/illegal immigrants for citizenship, while also being assured of their human rights until that happened. Trump, however, stated that U.S citizens should be placed first in every aspect (“Make America Great Again”), and proceeded to vilify immigrants and blame them for loss of jobs and rising crime in the country. After coming to power, Trump clamped down on immigration hard. He ordered the construction of a border wall and started rounding up and deporting illegal immigrants back to their home countries.
However, what started as an attempt to reduce illegal immigration, soon started to attack legal immigration as well. The U.S govt began to aggressively increase restrictions, restraints and raise the bar for most qualifications, making it harder than ever for skilled immigrants to move to the U.S for studies and jobs. These policy changes were downright bizarre and ill-advised, doing more harm than good for both Americans and immigrants.
For example, The EB-5 investment visa allowed investors from different countries to invest directly into American companies. This helped rake in more than 20 billion dollars in investments and created more than 730,000 jobs in the years between 2008 and 2015. It shows that EB-5 was a beneficiary tool for the government. Yet, the Trump administration chose to restrict it by doubling the minimum amount of investment required to qualify for the visa. An illogical move that slowed down foreign investments and eliminated potential sources of investment for private American corporations.
This was just the beginning. Soon, more restrictions were placed on H1B visas for skilled workers, visas for students, rules for finding work for students, and immigration criteria for parents and dependents of U.S citizens. Such overnight changes in policy were frequent and were often deemed illegal by U.S courts and the house of representatives, who managed to strike down these policy shifts across the U.S before they did any permanent damage.
The Coronavirus crisis further complicated the situation for all forms of immigration, with efforts being made to slow the transmission of this disruptive disease, which has caused a serious slowdown in the global economy and made it even harder to travel anywhere, for work or otherwise. Using this as an excuse, the U.S Department of labour has decided to implement stricter levels of qualifications for the H1B visa, which directly affects a U.S company’s ability to hire global talent.
The new restrictions raise the minimum wage limit for H1B applicants to 40 per cent higher than its original mark. This means that skilled or not, aspiring immigrants working on a wage lower than the specified amount can be denied residency, visas or even admission into the United States. The changes are to go into effect on Monday, 19th October, barely a week after being declared to the public.
While this new “Public Charge” policy is being already challenged in federal courts, The Supreme Court of U.S.A has given the green light for it to go into effect, until said courts announce a verdict.
This has proven the fact that the Trump administration has, once again, failed to understand the long term benefits of the H1B skilled worker program. Benefits that affected immigrant workers, American workers, and the American economy in general.
Research studies have proven that the H1B skilled worker program leads to higher company revenue and the creation of even more jobs. Especially for American college graduates. Economists say that 1.3 million new jobs can be created, and the GDP will add another 185 billion U.S dollars to the economy.
The fact is simply proven by the statistic that states that the number of businesses and companies registered by skilled legal immigrants is more than twice the rate of native-born Americans. Immigrants accounted for 30 per cent of total businesses, and 50 per cent of the country’s billion-dollar “Unicorn” startups started in the year 2016. Economists say that if H1B admissions are increased, it could lead to the creation of up to 1.3 million jobs for Americans and boost the GDP by 158 billion by 2045.
However, with the new rule changes mandated by the government, there will be issues with catastrophic consequences:
1. This will create short-term chaos for existing companies, especially in the tech industry, who are already struggling to hire people due to the current economic situation. This might result in a drop in their overall performance, reducing their revenue, and thus the overall gain in GDP.
2. As companies become unable to find workers skilled enough to meet their requirements, growth will slow down. Innovation, a prime driver of business, might also come to a halt. As business slows down, job creation will also be reduced. These three are an interlinked chain of events which happen together if even of these events is triggered.
3. Even if courts block the rules after some time, their very implementation will show that America’s worker policy is no longer stable and it will be a risk to even consider immigration to America. This will mean reduction in starting up new companies and businesses, which could turn into potential behemoth corporations in the future. Remember that immigrants or their descendants created many large corporations such as Google, Apple, even Bank of America.
The move made by the Government of U.S.A has already begun to show cracks in the once well-oiled machine that is the American dream. It may be about time that skilled workers look for opportunities in other countries across the planet, as true talent should be recognised and rewarded no matter where one goes.