Despite concern from Silicon Valley and campaign promises from President Trump, a former top U.S. immigration attorney says the administration has limited ability to restrict the flow of H-1B work visas.
California technology companies are heavily reliant on the visa program, which allows them to import mostly white-collar workers from overseas.
Leon Fresco, the former top Obama immigration attorney, says there’s little latitude for larger changes after President Trump targeted the program during the campaign.
The Labor Department authorized requests for a quarter million H1-B visas in California last year. Businesses praise the program for allowing high-skilled workers to come to the U.S., but it’s also used most heavily by companies that outsource jobs overseas.
Fresco oversaw civil immigration cases for the Obama Administration. He says, unlike other visas, Congress put details of the H1-B program in law.
"There’s very little that can be done regulatorily save for eliminating what the Obama Administration did, which was to add a work permit for the spouses of H1-B holders, and much, much more auditing," Fresco says.
So, the administration could put greater scrutiny on companies that use the visa, such as off-shoring firms.