President Trump signed an executive order on Monday, temporarily suspending work visa programs in an effort to protect American workers amid the current jobs crisis. The order, which also extends the immigration ban instated in April until the end of the year, will bar foreign workers from temporarily living and working in the United States and applies to high-skilled workers as well as to seasonal workers, students on work-study summer programs and au pairs.
The inclusion of the H-1B program for skilled workers is particularly disputed, as it has proven effective in alleviating the chronic shortage of IT workers, and it’s highly doubtful to what extent highly skilled and compensated H-1B workers are competing with the millions of workers that lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump, however, has long been an outspoken critic of the H-1B program, which, in his opinion, is often abused to hire cheaper foreign workers instead of American applicants.
As the following chart shows, the vast majority of H-1B recipients in fiscal year 2019 worked in computer-related occupations. With more than 250,000 approved applications, such workers accounted for 66 percent of all beneficiaries of the program, with jobs in architecture, engineering and surveying a distant second. According to data published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the average annual compensation for successful H-1B applicants was $114,000, illustrating that the majority of these workers don’t exactly qualify as cheap labor.