Trump called this visa 'very bad' for Americans. Truth Social applied for one

MIAMI — The social media company founded by former President Donald Trump applied for a business visa program that he sought to restrict during his administration and which many of his allies want him to curtail in a potential second term.

Trump Media & Technology Group, the company behind Truth Social, filed an application in June 2022 for an H-1B visa for a worker at a $65,000 annual salary, the lowest wage category allowed under the program. Federal immigration data shows the company was approved for a visa a few months later. The company says it did not hire the worker.

Filing for the visa sets the image of Trump the candidate, who has proposed a protectionist agenda for companies to “hire American,” in conflict with Trump the businessman, who has said his companies will use every tool at their disposal. Records show the investment firm started by Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, also filed an application and was approved to hire a foreigner as an associate under the same visa program.

Trump Media & Technology Group said in a statement the application “was made under prior management,” even though the current CEO, former House Intelligence Committee chairman and longtime Trump ally Devin Nunes, was already leading the company at the time the application was first filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

“The company has never hired — and has no plans to hire — an H-1B visa program worker. When current management learned of this application, which was made under prior management, it swiftly terminated the process in November 2022,” the company said in a statement.

An H-1B visa petition can cost companies about $5,000 per employee. Companies can withdraw petitions even after being approved. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services records data doesn’t note when visas are revoked. But a spokeswoman for the Labor Department, which also tracks H-1B applications, said they had no records of Truth Social requesting a withdrawal.

Tech companies commonly hire employees using the H-1B program. Trump never hid the fact he used the visas before he became president, using them mostly to bring in foreign models and a few workers for his hotels and resorts, per a review of petitions filed since 2009.

But with exceptions to renew existing applications, his companies appeared to have no longer petitioned for H-1B visas until Truth Social was created.

Data from the Labor Department shows that an application was filed by Trump Media & Technology Group for an employee to earn $65,000. It lists as the employer Will Wilkerson, a company co-founder and former senior vice president of operations, and an Atlanta address as the job’s location.

Wilkerson filed a whistleblower complaint in August 2022 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging securities violations by the company. He was fired, according to The Washington Post, and is cooperating with federal authorities. His lawyers said he would not comment.

Trump frequently talks about the arrivals of migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, but his policy proposals while in the White House also included curbs on legal immigration such as family-based visas and the visa lottery program.

In a 2016 primary debate, Trump spoke about the H-1B visa program and said it was “very bad” and “unfair” for U.S. workers.

“First of all, I think and I know the H-1B very well. And it’s something that I frankly use and I shouldn’t be allowed to use it. We shouldn’t have it,” he said. “Second of all, I think it’s very important to say, well, I’m a businessman and I have to do what I have to do.”

Three months after taking office, Trump issued his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, which directed Cabinet members to suggest reforms to ensure that H-1B visas were awarded to the highest-paid or most-skilled applicants to protect American workers. He has previously said the program was used by tech companies to get foreign workers for lower pay.

During his administration, a study by the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy found the government was scrutinizing cases more by launching requests for more information from companies filing to hire foreign workers and denying more petitions.

The “Project 2025” handbook, compiled by allies preparing for Trump’s potential transition to power, says the H-1B program should be transformed “into an elite mechanism exclusively to bring in the ‘best and brightest’ at the highest wages while simultaneously ensuring that U.S. workers are not being disadvantaged by the program.”

Companies in the professional, scientific and technical services fields account for more than 60% of the total visas granted, said Nicolas Morales, an economist at the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond who specializes in labor and migration. Morales said he has found the visa program has been beneficial for small companies to stay in business.

“Winning the H-1B lottery actually helps them. It increases their chances of survival,” he said. “In the next five years, they are more likely to stay active, particularly small companies that are very dependent on skilled labor.”

The applications require companies to attest they will provide the foreign workers the same benefits offered to U.S. workers and pay more than what they pay others with similar experience and qualifications or more than the typical wage for that type of occupation. Companies also have to provide a notice of the filing to the workers by posting a notice in two locations at the place of employment.

Much of the criticism regarding the H-1B program is about companies offering salaries in the lower wage categories to foreign workers. The application filed by Kushner’s investment firm to hire a foreign employee appears to satisfy that complaint.

The Labor Department certified a document where Kushner’s investment firm specified it would pay this employee a $200,000 salary, which falls under the highest wage level for the H-1B visas typically reserved for those who are experts in their field and have senior responsibilities. Recent data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shows the company was approved for a visa.

Kushner has not joined the Trump campaign and has been pursuing his own business interests applying for tourism projects in the Balkans.

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