Trump takes first step toward H-1B reform

Trump takes first step toward H-1B reform

Trump takes first step toward H-1B reform

Trump takes first step toward H-1B reform

President Trump has set the wheels in motion for H-1B visa reform.

On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order that directed federal agencies to implement a “Buy American, Hire American” strategy. The order included a section geared at immigration reform.

The order tasked four department heads (including the Secretary of Labor, who has yet to be confirmed) to suggest reforms to ensure H-1B visas are given to the “most-skilled or highest paid” petitioners. Additionally, it asked them to propose new rules and guidance for preventing fraud and abuse of work visas.

Trump made it clear that he doesn’t agree with fact that H-1Bs are currently doled out under a lottery system.

“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery — and that’s wrong,” he said on Tuesday in Wisconsin, where he signed the order.

There’s an annual quota of 85,000 new H-1B visas (with 20,000 reserved for master’s degree holders). Applications opened on April 3 and closed five days later. It was the fifth consecutive year that the cap was met within five days. This year, 199,000 applications were received.

It’s unclear what exactly the four agencies department heads (State, Justice, Labor and Homeland Security) will be able to accomplish administratively and what will be need to done through congressional legislation.

“Although released with ceremonial flair, the order will have no immediate impact on H-1Bs,” Betsy Lawrence, the director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told CNNTech. “Many of the changes to the H-1B program contemplated by the administration would require legislative action or rulemaking and would take time to go through the necessary processes.”

There have been several bills introduced in recent months to reform the H-1B visa system, including a bipartisan bill from Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin who have been pushing to revamp the program for years. Their bill proposed eliminating the lottery in favor of a “preference system” so that foreign students educated in the U.S. would get priority. It would give a “leg up” to advanced degree holders, those being paid a high wage and those with valuable skills.

This proposal aligns with Trump’s H-1B rhetoric.

“I’m grateful that President Trump has taken my suggestions to heart by taking steps today to protect American workers and preserve limited H-1B visas for truly qualified, high-skilled foreign workers,” said Grassley in a statement.

H-1B visas are used to fill the U.S. skills gap, but critics, including the Trump administration have voiced concern about abuse of the program. In some cases, outsourcing firms flood the system with applicants, obtaining visas for foreign workers and then contracting them out to tech companies. American jobs are sometimes replaced in the process.

Attorney Sara Blackwell, who advocates for American workers replaced by foreigner visa holders, said she’s “hopeful.”

“I’m glad President Trump is acknowledging the serious problem.”

Unlike the draft executive order leaked in January, the order signed Tuesday did not set out deadlines, although it did ask for proposals “as soon as practicable.”

“I’m not worried immediately about my clients — but I am worried about what’s to come,” Tahmina Watson, of Watson Immigration Law, said.

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Australia Abolishes 457 Visa Programme Used Largely By Indians

Australia Abolishes 457 Visa Programme Used Largely By Indians

Australia Abolishes 457 Visa Programme Used Largely By Indians

Australia Abolishes 457 Visa Programme Used Largely By Indians

In an unexpected announcement, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today said the government will replace its popular 457 visa that brings temporary foreign workers to the country with a new version that will recruit only the “best and the brightest in the national interest”. The move to abolish the visa, used by over 95,000 temporary foreign workers, a majority of them Indians, aims at tackling the growing unemployment in the country.

Mr Turnbull made it clear that the idea is to ‘put Australians first’ by giving them priority for jobs currently open to overseas workers. He said on Facebook, “Our reforms will have a simple focus: Australian jobs and Australian values.”

The country will welcome only skilled workers and they can no longer allow 457 visas to be “passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians”, he added.

The 457 visa was designed to fill Australia’s skills shortage and allow holders to bring members of their family to Australia on 457 secondary visa. But the programme was allegedly being misused by employers to import inexpensive workers. “It’s lost its credibility,” Mr Turnbull said. It’s not that the government will discourage foreign workers completely, but the focus will be on “filling critical skill gaps and not bring in foreign workers because an employer finds it cheaper and easier to do so”.

With the new temporary visa, the number of occupations on the list will also come down. The new visa will be available for two or four years, requiring visa holders to have two years’ work experience, a criminal record check, better English-language proficiency and mandatory labour market testing in a majority of cases.

Those who are currently in Australia on a 457 visa will not be affected by the new arrangement.

Mr Turnbull’s announcement comes days after he visited India where a range of issues, including national security, counter terrorism, education and energy, were discussed and six agreements were signed.

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Changes to better manage immigration

Changes to better manage immigration

Changes to better manage immigration

Changes to better manage immigration

Two remuneration thresholds are being introduced for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). One will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid.

The automatic selection mark for applicants under the SMC was increased from 140 points to 160 in October last year and the Government has now realigned the points system to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.

More points will be available for skilled work experience and some recognised post graduate qualifications, and points for age will increase for applicants aged 30-39.

Points will no longer be available for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage, for employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth Areas and for close family in New Zealand.

The changes will be implemented in mid-August 2017.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced a package of changes designed to better manage immigration and improve the long-term labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.

“The Government is committed to ensuring inward migration best supports the economy and the labour market,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy.

“That is why we are making a number of changes to our permanent and temporary immigration settings aimed at managing the number and improving the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand.”

Changes to permanent immigration settings include introducing two remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), which will complement the current qualifications and occupation framework.

“One remuneration threshold will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“The SMC points table, under which individuals claim points towards their residence application, will also be realigned to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.

“Collectively these changes will improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand.”

The Government is also proposing a number of changes to temporary migration settings to manage the number and settlement expectations of new migrants coming to New Zealand on Essential Skills work visas.

The changes include:

  • The introduction of remuneration bands to determine the skill level of an Essential Skills visa holder, which would align with the remuneration thresholds being introduced for Skilled Migrant Category applicants
  • The introduction of a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled and lower-paid Essential Skills visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled temporary work visa.
  • Aligning the ability of Essential Skills visa holders to bring their children and partners to New Zealand with the new skill levels.
  • Exploring which occupations have a seasonal nature and ensuring that the length of the visa aligns with peak labour demand.

“I want to make it clear that where there are genuine labour or skills shortages, employers will be able to continue to use migrant labour to fill those jobs,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“However, the Government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to up skill them.

“We have always said that we constantly review our immigration policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to managing immigration.”

Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings closes on 21 May, with implementation planned for later this year.

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