The Trump administration on Tuesday announced a new rule to prevent companies from using lower-paid foreign workers to replace US citizens.
The rule set to take effect Thursday requires companies that sponsor “high-skilled” foreign workers for H-1B visas to pay them close to an average industry salary.
Entry-level H-1B workers will have to earn wages that are at least the 45th percentile of industry salaries, up from the 17th percentile, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The DHS rule will affect over one-third of the H-1B petitions,” acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said on a call with reporters. “I cannot overstate how big a deal this is.”
Companies impacted by the change will have to either pay the foreign workers more, or hire Americans instead, officials said.
Patrick Pizzella, the deputy secretary of Labor, said “America’s immigration laws should put American workers first.”
Under the current system, “the result is US workers are being ousted from good-paying, middle-class jobs and being replaced by foreign workers,” Pizzella said.
There’s a statutory cap of 85,000 H-1B visas that can be issued each year, but overall more than 500,000 people working in the US have one.
The Trump administration for years has sought to limit immigration through legislation and administrative changes.
The State Department said last week it intends to accept only 15,000 refugees and asylum seekers next year, down 3,000 from last year and far below President Obama’s 110,000 cap for fiscal 2017. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden proposed increasing acceptance to 125,000 people per year.
The latest announcement comes shortly before the Nov. 3 election as President Trump touts various anti-outsourcing initiatives, including his renegotiation of a trade deal with Mexico and Canada that aimed to boost autoworker pay across the bloc.
The Trump administration previously sought legislation that would reduce common forms of legal immigration, including ending family-based or “chain” immigration for people outside of an immediate family.