GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has pledged to “gut” the H-1B temporary work visa system if he wins the White House.
This is the same system he previously used to hire highly skilled foreign workers for the pharmaceutical company that built much of his fortune.
From 2018 to 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 29 applications submitted by Ramaswamy’s former employer, Roivant Sciences, to hire employees on H-1B visas, which allow U.S. companies to Recruitment period for foreign workers in the field of technology and other professional jobs.
Yet, the H-1B system is “bad for everyone involved,” Ramaswamy told POLITICO.
“The lottery system needs to be replaced by actual meritocratic admission. It’s a form of indentured servitude that only accrues to the benefit of the company that sponsored an H-1B immigrant. I’ll gut it,” he said in a statement, adding that the U.S. needs to eliminate chain-based migration.
“The people who come as family members are not the meritocratic immigrants who make skills-based contributions to this country.”
Ramaswamy stepped down as CEO of Roivant in February 2021, but remained chairman of the company’s board until February this year, when he announced his presidential run. As of March 31, the company and its subsidiaries had 904 full-time employees, including 825 in the United States, according to SEC filings.
When asked about the mismatch in the GOP presidential hopeful’s policy stance and his past business practices, press secretary Tricia McLaughlin said the role of a policymaker “is to do what’s right for a country overall: the system is broken and needs to be fixed.”
“Vivek believes that regulations overseeing the U.S. energy sector are badly broken, but he still uses water and electricity,” she said in a statement. “This is the same.”
Ramaswamy, who is himself the child of immigrants, has captured headlines for his restrictionist immigration policy agenda.
Although he is not new to Republican strategy, his rhetoric has at times gone further than other candidates, calling for a replacement for lottery-based visas, such as such as H-1B work visas, by accepting “talent.” He also said he would use military force to protect the border and deport the US-born children of undocumented immigrants.
H-1B visas are in high demand and the demand for these workers continues to increase:
In fiscal year 2021, U.S. companies submitted 780,884 applications for just 85,000 available positions, an increase of more than 60%.
Ramaswamy acknowledged his own immigration experience in his opening remarks at the first GOP debate in Milwaukee.
“My parents came to this country with no money 40 years ago,” he said. “I have gone on to found multi billion-dollar companies.”
Ramaswamy’s stance on H-1B visas is reminiscent of the 2016 Trump campaign, when then-candidate Donald Trump, who has also hired a number of foreign workers under H-1B visas for his businesses, took a hardline stance on these foreign workers before later softening his rhetoric.
As president, Trump temporarily suspended new work visas and blocked hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from U.S. employment, as part of his sweeping effort to limit the number of immigrants coming into the United States.