Why Trump’s New Visa Restrictions Won’t Have Much Impact on Hollywood

But the tech industry and academia will be hit the hardest

The Trump administration’s new visa restrictions announced on Monday won’t have much effect on Hollywood — but the tech industry and academia will be harder hit, according to at least one immigration attorney.

Most of the foreign workers seeking visas in Hollywood apply for O-1 visas, according to Michael Piston, a senior attorney at the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles. O-1s, which are not included in the new visa suspensions, go to individuals with “extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or extraordinary recognized achievements in the motion picture and television fields, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, to work in their field of expertise,” according to the State Department’s website.

Some Hollywood corporations might feel an impact with the restrictions to L-1 visas, which allow companies to transfer foreign workers to U.S. offices, Piston said, noting that it wouldn’t be disproportionate in comparison to any other industry with large, multinational companies.

“Sony, for example, … might bring across their multinational managers or somebody who has some knowledge of, perhaps, some patented software that they’re using in their system, but it would not be anything … that you would see more of in the entertainment industry than you would see in any other multinational corporation,” he said.

In addition to L-1 visas, the new restrictions target foreign workers seeking H-1B visas for those working in jobs that require highly specialized knowledge and are typically used in the tech industry and academia; H-2B visas, which are for nonagricultural seasonal workers; and J-1 visas, which are typically used by foreign elementary and secondary school teachers, professors and exchange students. The restrictions go into effect on Wednesday and extend through the end of 2020.

The restrictions don’t apply to any visa-holders who are already in the U.S., those who are abroad with valid visas, permanent residents and family members of U.S. residents. The restrictions also largely do not impact health care, agriculture and food industry workers.

Major companies like Google, Twitter and Amazon, which typically hire highly skilled engineers through H-1B visas, have already spoken out against the restrictions; on Monday afternoon, Twitter’s vice president of public policy and philanthropy said Trump’s visa suspensions would “unilaterally and unnecessarily (stifle) America’s attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent,” adding that the move was “short-sighted and deeply damaging to the economic strength of the United States.”

Piston said the closures of most consulates for routine visa services due to the pandemic has already created more of an obstacle for foreign workers seeking visas. But Piston questioned Trump’s suggestion that the new restrictions will “protect” American workers from competing with foreign workers for jobs, as he said in the proclamation to his order.

“Either the people in the Trump administration are so completely out of touch with how the economy works that they actually think they’re accomplishing something or, much more likely, this is just red meat for the base,” Piston said. “It’s just basically the classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. This is just going to hurt the economy.”

J. Clara Chan

J. Clara Chan

Media and politics reporter • [email protected] • Twitter: @jclarachan


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