New Delhi: United States President Donald Trump on Monday temporarily suspended H-1B visa system till the end of the current year in order to “reform” and move in the direction of merit-based immigration.Also Read - US President Biden's Vow Of Black Justice A Nod To His Most Loyal Voters

“Moving to a merit-based immigration system,” the White House announced in a statement soon after Trump issued a proclamation to temporarily suspend H-1B and other work visas till the end of the year. Also Read - US Issues Fresh Travel Advisory, Asks Citizens to 'Reconsider Travel to India' Due to COVID-19

In his proclamation, the US President said that the overall unemployment rate in the United States nearly quadrupled between February and May of 2020 – resulting in few of the most extreme unemployment rates recorded in the States by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also Read - US Orders 8,500 Troops on Heightened Alert Amid Russia Worry

According to the statement, the Trump Administration will reform the immigration system to prioritise the highest-skilled workers and “protect American jobs”, by offering the H-1B visa only to those offered the highest wage.

These reforms will help protect the wages of American workers and ensure that foreign labour entering our country is highly skilled and does not undercut the United States labour market, the White House noted.

However, the suspension will not affect those immigrants who are already in the US on an existing visa.

Notably, President Trump’s proclamation also suspends the L1 visas, that aided in intra-company transfer, as well as, J1 visas, which are widely used by doctors and researchers who are transferred.

The decision has been highly criticised by the corporate sector, who feel that it will hit innovation, push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation for people in the Americas.

“Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation,” said Thomas Donohue, CEO of US Chambers of Commerce.

“Today’s proclamation is a severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration. Putting up a not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” he said.