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Trumped Up, Trickled Down

It is official – Donald J. Trump is now the President of the United States of America. If post-election mayhem is any indication, the next four years certainly promise to be meme worthy. If we are to disregard the leaps in diplomatic ties of India and U.S.A under the Obama administration, from a historical view-point that is from Eisenhower to Bush, Republican presidents have fared better for India as a nation.

The new President’s election campaign was largely based on his strong immigration stance and a promised change on immigration issues. The country’s foreign policy sets a standard of interaction for its organizations, companies, and citizens. The United States of America has a very intricate system in place for foreign students, considering it receives so many of them each year. So what do we, as the second highest contributor of foreign students to the United States, stand to gain or lose?

J-1 visas

“A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to research scholars, professors, and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S.”

Approximately 300,000 students utilize the J-1 for semesters in the U.S. or to participate in an exchange program. It allows them to work and study under its permit in addition to giving American employers the option to hire foreign officials with “specialized skills” for a temporary time period. Donald Trump has vowed to ban this program and replace it, “with a resume bank for inner-city youth provided to all corporate subscribers to the J-1 visa program.”

With no J-1, companies will struggle to employ foreign national students. Semester internships, working at summer tech camps would all become distant dreams to students. It would also affect the possibility of you undertaking an exchange semester at a U.S. college. Since he is yet to come up with a system to implement the ban, there exists leg room to ensure the scrapping of J-1 visas does not go through. But it does mean one thing for sure – as international students, we will be privy to fewer opportunities.

F-1 visas

“An F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for those wishing to attend a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, language training program, or other academic institution.”

In a series of tweets in August 2015, President Trump showed support for foreign students studying in the U.S. He stated “When foreigners attend our great colleges & want to stay in the U.S they should not be thrown out[sic]” In a fashion typical of Trump, his stance is still unclear, while he has said he supports foreign students, his restrictions on future employment opportunities for these students expose a flaw in his ideology. A very small percentage of prospective students would wish to pay the stupendous fee, and yet not receive a chance to avail job opportunities in the future.

H1-B visas                                                          

“H1-B visas allow US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Most STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs are considered as specialty occupations.”

The newly elected President is a habitual flip-flopper when it comes to the issue of H1-B visas.  His campaign proposal on his website explicitly states, “The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans — including immigrants themselves and their children — to earn a middle class wage. We need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed.”  He proposed restricting the program, and on including a requirement wherein companies are required to look for domestic employees before looking for  foreign ones. Despite what’s on his site, on the campaign trail he took a much more moderate stance, as we have seen during the Republican debates. Yet, every time he was confronted with the reality of his statements, he reiterates that he wishes to stop the rampant “abuse” of the H1-B visas.

If the new President does follow through on restricting the program, it would mean any Silicon Valley dream may have to be put on hold. The restrictions would mean companies would prefer hiring Americans, even if you’re the better candidate.

Green Cards

“Green card refers to the immigration process of becoming a permanent resident. The green card serves as proof that its holder, a lawful permanent resident (LPR), has been officially granted immigration benefits, which include permission to reside and take employment in the United States.”

President Trump also plans to implement “immigration moderation”. This doesn’t mean he would just make it more difficult to obtain a green card, it may include stopping the issue of green cards for a period of time. He has failed to specify if this is limited only to green cards issued for employment.

M-1 visas

“An M1 visa is a temporary student visa that allows international students to attend an accredited vocational or non-academic school, such as a trade school or practical training school.”

Donald Trump has not specifically addressed M-1 visas on his site or during the campaign trail, but it isn’t a stretch to imagine that he plans to include M-1 visas in his “extreme vetting.” This would mean, irrespective of whether you get accepted into the University of your choosing, you may not get the opportunity to study there.

Does he plan to deliver on his campaign promises?

A closer look at Trump’s foreign policy, and immigration stance will show, there isn’t one. His continuous equivocation and the fact that he is yet to reveal how he plans to execute his actions is a cause for hope. His lack of a definitive stance throughout the election campaign, despite many contentious statements offers him flexibility. While candidates are usually held to their major campaign promises, the sheer complexity of scrapping visa programs or re-doing them acts as quite an effective deterrent.

When can we expect him to implement these proposed changes?

In a video he uploaded outlining his plans for his first 100 days in office, he does say he will “investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.” So when can we expect possible upheaval? Very, very soon.

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