President Donald Trump’s push to change a visa program for foreign workers could affect employers in the Kansas City region who rely on the program for highly skilled workers.
Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that calls for a multi-agency review of the H-1B visa program, which allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers for specialty occupations. The order does not by itself enact any changes to the program but it opens the door for the administration to pursue greater restrictions in the future.
Kansas City-area lawmakers from both parties said they supported Trump’s efforts to scrutinize the program, which he says “should include only the most skilled and highest-paid applicants and should never, ever be used to replace American workers.”
However, Mira Mdivani, an Overland Park attorney who specializes in immigration law, argues that the problem with the program isn’t that the U.S. grants too many visas, it’s that it grants too few. Just 85,000 H-1B visas are granted annually, but applications number around 200,000, she said.
Mdivani said companies that don’t get approval for the visas often end up outsourcing those jobs to Canada “and other countries that have more reasonable immigration policies,” costing the U.S. the benefits that come from those workers paying taxes and spending their wages in the U.S.
A wide variety of companies use the program, but in recent years it has been seen as a key tool of the tech industry, including Garmin in Olathe, Kan.
Read more: Kansas City Star