Trump signs executive order freezing popular tech visas through 2020

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday freezing new visas for foreign workers through Deccember 31. The order freezes temporary H-1B visas, which are popular among tech companies.

While the Trump administration says the order is meant to preserve jobs amid the coronavirus-fueled economic downturn, industry insiders say the freeze will likely push skilled tech workers and prospective innovators to countries other than the US.

According to the Trump administration, nonimmigrant visa programs “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.” The administration explained the executive order will provide US workers with access to an additional 525,000 jobs, including the 170,000 jobs vacated after an April ban on issuing new green cards.

Researchers, however, say there’s insufficient evidence to prove the U.S. economy’s recovery will be helped by barring new visas.

In a recent research report, Madeline Zavodny, a researcher with the National Foundation for American Policy, explained: “If highly productive workers no longer can work in the United States, the US economy as a whole is worse off. The fact that H-1B visa holders boost innovation further magnifies the adverse economic impact.

"With the country facing a long and difficult struggle to emerge from the economic downturn, this is not the time to impose additional restrictions that would reduce the number of skilled, innovative workers in the United States.”

The tech industry has relied on the H-1B visa program for years and is one of the biggest proponents of the program. Numerous companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google, have all been recognized as top users of the H-1B visa program.

Many tech leaders were quick to condemn President Trump’s executive order too.

Alphabet CEO, Sundar Pichai, an immigrant from India, shared: “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation—we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, stated: “Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world’s talent or create uncertainty and anxiety. Immigrants play a vital role at our company and support our country’s critical infrastructure. They are contributing to this country at a time when we need them most.”

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, added his own thoughts in a tweet: “Like Apple, this nation of immigrants has always found strength in our diversity, and hope in the enduring promise of the American Dream. There is no new prosperity without both. Deeply disappointed by this proclamation.”

The Trump administration’s immigration restrictions have resulted in a sharp decline in the number of visa applications approved each year. Rather than applying for a visa to work in the US, many tech workers have instead chosen to work in Canada, with many flocking to Toronto’s growing tech industry.