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The New US Labour Department Nominee assures US workers over H1B visas

March 2017, 28
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 The New US Labour Department Nominee assures US workers over H1B visas 

In amidst recent concerns over restrictions of the H1B skilled visa for foreign workers in the US, new President Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary has been reassuring American workers the H1B visa is necessary.

Restrictions were announced early in February to the H1B visa. Fast or premium processing of the visa was suspended. The Premium Processing option allowed companies to pay an additional fee of $1225 to speed up visa processing under the H1B stream which usually takes three to six months. The H1B visa allows many tech firms in the US to hire highly skilled foreign workers to meet a skill shortage in the US. There is a major concern in Silicon Valley and across the US the restrictions will curtail the booming US technology sector. Combined with rumours of further restrictions and the impact of the Travel Ban introduced by the Donald Trump administration both concern and objections have been rife.

Alexander Acosta is the labor secretary nominee under the new Trump administration. During his confirmation hearing with the Senate, he publicly recognised the deficit of skilled workers in the US. He worked to address some of the concerns American workers had over the H1B visa and the employment of foreign workers across the US. Reports of Americans who had to train foreign replacements for their own role were questioned as to their frequency and if they needed investigation. He explained this was not the purpose of the H1B visa. He did acknowledge that many Americans saw jobs were available but many didn’t have the skills required. Acosta cited his concern over the skills gap which needed to be confronted at an infrastructural level. Starting with the courses and programs offered by American schools, colleges, and universities. He also commented on the benefits of immigration to local economies as the new residents and employees reinvested their earnings into consumer goods and property in the US.

Currently, around 85,000 foreign workers are employed in the US on the H1B visa scheme each year. Premium Processing of the visa has been suspended for six months, with US immigration describing the suspension as a way to catch up with processing backlogs.

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