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US President Trump likely to issue executive order to limit H-1B visas

Before assuming office in January, Trump said that one of his first tasks would be to issue an executive order for the Labour Department to investigate visa abuses that he asserted undercut the wages of American workers

world Updated: Jan 31, 2017 13:21 IST
H1B visas

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington. (AP File )

President Donald Trump is preparing to issue executive orders on the H-1B and other visas that are the lifeblood of Indian technology companies in the US, his spokesperson Sean Spicer has indicated, raising the likelihood of stringent restrictions being placed on them.

Spicer told reporters on Monday that H-1Bs and other visa are “a part of larger immigration reform effort that Trump will continue to talk about through executive order and through working with Congress.”

“There is an overall need to look at all these programs and you will see that both through executive action and through comprehensive legislative measures a way to address immigration as a whole and the visa programmes,” he said.

Before assuming office in January, Trump said that one of his first tasks would be to issue an executive order for the Labour Department to investigate visa abuses that he asserted undercut the wages of American workers.

Along with H1-B, Spicer mentioned spousal and others as categories of visas that Trump may act on.

H-1B visas are issued to qualified professionals. A related visa is the L1, which is given to employees of a company who are transferred to the US. Both of them are used extensively by Indian companies.

In 2015, President Barack Obama’s administration permitted spouses of H-1B visa-holders to get permission to work.

Spicer said that these visas were part of the “larger immigration reform effort”.

“You’ve already seen a lot of action on immigration,” he added, referring to the temporary ban on visitors from nine countries from where this and previous administrations have perceived terrorist threats.

According to ComputerWorld magazine, nearly 86 per cent of H-1B visas for computer-related jobs and 46.5 per cent for engineering positions were given to Indians.

The US issues 85,000 H-1B visas every year, of which 20,000 are for master’s degree holders from US universities. Because of the large number of applicants - 236,000 in 2016 - the H-1B visas were issued through a lottery system.

During his campaign and afterwards, Trump criticised the work visa system for the abuses in the way visas were obtained and the impact on American technology workers.

He vowed in a speech in December 2016, to end the practice of laid off American workers being made to train foreigners brought over to replace them.

He called these incidents “demeaning” and said, “We are not going to let it happen to our people any more.”

Like Trump, some Democrats, also want to restrict H-1B visas.