Trump executive order to restrict immigrant visas, aiming to save 525,000 U.S. jobs during COVID

'The president is expanding that measure in light of, frankly, expanding unemployment in the number of Americans who are out of work,' a senior administration official said Monday

Published: June 22, 2020 3:06pm

Updated: June 22, 2020 7:35pm

President Trump is expected this week to sign an executive order extending foreign-worker restrictions through December 31, senior administration officials said Monday.

In April, Trump issued an executive order temporarily suspending immigration due to coronavirus, saying it would be 60-day pause and impact only those seeking permanent residency, also known as a green card, not temporary employment. 

The new order is expected to prohibit visas for most guest workers who come to the U.S. for temporary or seasonal work but exempts farm workers and some within the food service industry. 

"The president is expanding that measure in light of, frankly, expanding unemployment in the number of Americans who are out of work," a senior administration official said Monday. "What these actions will do in terms of freeing up jobs over the course of the rest of 2020 is about 525,000 jobs. Quite a significant number, where President Trump is focusing on getting Americans back to work as quickly as possible after we've suffered this hit to our economy based on the coronavirus, and the harm it's done."

The administration also plans to make permanent immigration rules that would move the H-1B system to one based on merit rather than a lottery.

A senior administration said that last year 225,000 H-1B visa applications were received for just 85,000 spots. Up until this year, they were distributed by random lottery, and the president has instructed his administration to get rid of the lottery and replace it with ranking the applications by wage.

"This will drive both the skill level and the wage level, reduce competition with Americans at the entry level and 'do more to get the best and the brightest,'" a senior administration official said.

The White House on Monday also said it would also seek to close loopholes to allow analysis of whether an immigrant is displacing American workers through sub-contractors. A high-profile example of this occurred with Disney, where American citizens were training foreigners to take their jobs.

Other permanent changes ordered by the president include starting to getting biometrics and security checks prior to travel and matriculation to the United States.

"It is not a uniform set of checks before people arrive, currently," a senior administration official told reporters Monday.

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