Hundreds of Canadians working for technology companies or multinational corporations in the United States could be affected by a new ban that freezes the issuance of temporary work visas until the end of the year.
The Trump administration on Monday extended a ban on green cards issued outside the U.S. and added many temporary work visas to the freeze.
The ban on new visas, which takes effect Wednesday, applies to four categories including H-1B, H-2B, J-1 and L-1.
According to documents provided by the U.S. State Department to The Canadian Press, more than 400 Canadians were issued these visas in 2019.
The H-1B, which is widely used by American and Indian technology companies, was issued to 101 Canadians in the 2019 fiscal year. The J-1, for “cultural exchange,” was issued to 156 Canadians.
The L-1, which applies to managers and other key employees of multinational corporations, was issued to 161 Canadians, and the H-2B, for nonagricultural seasonal workers, was issued to five Canadians.
The Trump administration cast the effort as a way to free up jobs in an American economy reeling from the coronavirus. A senior official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity predicted it will open up to 525,000 jobs for Americans, a claim that was immediately challenged by critics.
The ban, while temporary, represents a cut to legal immigration on a scale that had eluded the administration before the pandemic. Long-term changes that would prevent many asylum seekers from getting work permits and would allocate high-tech worker visas differently are also being sought.
Business groups pressed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, marking a victory for immigration hardliners as Trump seeks to further solidify their support ahead of the November election.
There will be exemptions for food processing workers, which make up about 15 per cent of H-2B visas, the official said. Health care workers assisting with the coronavirus fight will continue to be spared from the green-card freeze, though their exemption will be narrower.
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“In the administration of our Nation’s immigration system, we must remain mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labour market, particularly in the current extraordinary environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labour,” Trump wrote in his presidential proclamation.