United States President Donald Trump on Monday temporarily suspended H-1B and other work visas till the end of the year as the administration seeks to reform the visa system and move towards merit-based immigration.
President Trump aims to reform the US immigration system to prioritise the highest-skilled workers and protect American jobs, according to a statement from the White House.
Under the reforms, the H-1B programme will prioritise workers who are offered the highest wage, ensuring that the highest-skilled applicants are admitted, the White House added.
The reforms also aim to close loopholes that have allowed US employers to replace American workers with low-cost foreign labour, thus protecting the wages of American workers and ensuring that foreign labour does not undercut the United States labour market, said the White House.
The temporary suspension of these foreign work visas is expected to free up to 5,25,000 jobs in the US, according to senior administration officials.
The issuance of new green cards will also remain halted through the end of the year.
The freeze will not affect those already in the US on the H-1B and the other work visa categories. Indians are the single largest group of H1-B visa-holders accounting for nearly 74 per cent of this category.
Twitter, Amazon, Google criticise decision
Meanwhile, Silicon Valley slammed the Trump administration's decision, with many tech heavyweights criticising the freeze.
Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted, “Disappointed by today’s proclamation - we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all”.
Microsoft President Brad Smith said that this is not the correct time to cut the US off from the world's talent or create uncertainty and anxiety. He tweeted, "Immigrants play a vital role at our company and support our country’s critical infrastructure”.
His post was retweeted by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Describing the move as “shortsighted” Amazon, which received more H-1B visas than any other company in 2019, issued a statement as well.
“Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American’s global competitiveness at risk,” the company said.
The decision was also criticised by Twitter, which issued a statement saying that the move undermines America’s greatest economic asset, which is its diversity.
Ivy League university Princeton also tweeted to say that they would “continue to welcome people of all backgrounds and nationalities.”