President Trump's executive order on H-1B visas

On April 18, the US President will sign an executive order in Wisconsin, which is aimed at revamping a guest worker visa programme that enables US companies to hire temporary foreign workers in certain high-skilled jobs.

During his campaign, Trump said at some point that he supported high-skilled visas, then came out against them.

Trump will announce the order during a trip to Wisconsin along with instructions to federal agencies to examine their purchasing systems to more effectively favour buying American goods. The Trump administration plans to explore ways to weight H-1B visa approvals toward higher-skilled, higher-paid workers and away from the current lottery system. But the goal shouldn't be to reduce the inflow of skilled and needed foreigners; it should be to make sure that the US admits as many workers as possible who genuinely meet that test.

"Instead", he added, "they should be given to the most-skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans".

Trump says the order sends a "powerful signal to the world" that the US will defend its workers, protect their jobs and put America first. More than 15% of Facebook Inc's USA employees used a temporary work visa in 2016. Critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications.

The government issues 85,000 H-1B visas annually.

Changing the H-1B visa system was one of the election promises of Trump.

Trump will also instruct the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that H-1B visas are not used to undercut United States workers and wages.

About 6% of the visas now go to the Labour Department's top skill level, while eight in 10 workers on the visa are paid less than the median wage for their fields, the White House said in a fact sheet distributed to reporters. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump wanted to visit "a company that builds American-made tools with American workers".

The tech industry has argued that the H-1B programme is needed because it encourages students to stay in the United States after getting degrees in high-tech specialties, and that they can not always find enough American workers with the skills they need. "Simply reviewing the programme is too little, too late", Senator Dick Durbin said.

Indian IT companies have been accused of misusing the H-1B visa regime, which they have consistently denied.

"Many of the changes to the H-1B programme contemplated by the administration would require legislative action or rule-making and would take time to go through the necessary processes", he said.

  • Zachary Reyes