Texas companies would feel the impact of a limit on H-1B visas

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The Trump administration could restrict who is approved for H-1B visas. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Trump administration is planning to severely limit approvals of new H-1B visas. Companies use that type of visa to bring in temporary guest workers to fill specialized roles, and Texas could be the state most affected by the changes.

More H-1B visas were issued in Dallas-Fort Worth than anywhere outside of the New York City area between 2010 and 2016 — more, even, than Silicon Valley — according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

Houston, Austin and Bryan-College Station were also in the nation's top 20.

Drexell Owusu from the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce says these work permits are vital for companies that can't find Americans with the right technical expertise. And it's not just internet companies that use them.

"Certain types of engineers or certain types of manufacturing techs," he said. "Lots of highly specialized skill sets."

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration was pushing to limit H-1B workers. A Sugar Land-based company is currently suing over a separate, 2018 policy change to the program. The administration wants companies to hire Americans instead.

Owusu doesn't think that's likely.

"That is a possibility, however, we believe it's a fairly low possibility," he said. "In particular, the regulations for H-1B and other visa categories are so stringent and very restrictive. Employers have to demonstrate that they can't fill that position with anybody else in this country and therefore require us to have a foreign national to fill the role."

Without H-1B visas, Owusu says critical jobs won't get filled and Texas companies will be less competitive on the global stage.