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Trump administration tightens H-1B visa program

Amazon criticizes the new rules from the departments of Labor and Homeland Security as "short-sighted."

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
2 min read

The Trump administration announces new restrictions on foreign workers.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is placing new restrictions on H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. The rules, announced Tuesday by the Labor Department and the Department of Homeland Security, are designed to close loopholes that let US employers replace American workers with what the administration calls "cheap foreign labor."

The tech industry relies heavily on H-1B visas. About three-quarters of 85,000 allotted H-1B visas each year go to people who work in tech.

A new Labor Department rule will force employers to offer salaries to foreign workers that "better reflect wages paid to similarly employed workers in the United States," while the Homeland Security Department rule will require foreign workers to have a degree in the "specialty occupation" they apply for -- as opposed to any college degree. The former rule kicks in Thursday, and the latter rule is expected to take effect in two months, CBS News reported.

In June, President Donald Trump stopped the government from issuing work visas, including the H-1B visas, through an executive order tied to the coronavirus pandemic. That earned criticism from tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

Amazon also criticized new rules as "short-sighted."

"The value of high skilled visa programs is clear, and this is not the time to limit them," a spokesperson for the e-commerce giant said via email. "As US employers work to re-open and return to full capacity, we need high skilled professionals from around the world. Their contributions are critical to the health of our economy and continued ability to innovate."

Neither Facebook, Apple nor Microsoft responded to requests for comment on the new rules.