Trump signs executive order on H1-B visas to ‘buy American, hire American’

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that calls for a review of the H-1B visa programme, saying they should never be used to replace American workers and be must given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants.
US President Donald Trump makes his way across the South Lawn upon return to the White House in Washington.(AFP Photo)
US President Donald Trump makes his way across the South Lawn upon return to the White House in Washington.(AFP Photo)
Updated on Jul 19, 2017 03:41 PM IST
Copy Link
Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj, Washington

US president Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that directs federal agencies to review and change a temporary visa programme for high-skilled foreigners to ensure preference was accorded to the “most-skilled and highest-paid”.

The change, when it becomes effective, is likely to benefit Silicon Valley tech giants who are willing to pay top dollars for the best talent. Critics of the programme have said these organisations get crowded out by outsourcing companies that are mostly from India.

The United States grants 85,000 H-1B temporary visas to high-skilled foreigners every year -- 65,000 hired from abroad and 20,000 from those enrolled in US colleges. Because of the high demand, a lottery system is used to pick qualifying petitions.

“Right now, H1-B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery -- and that’s wrong,” Trump said at the signing at a factory in Wisconsin.

“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.”

Called the “Buy American, hire American executive order”, it mandates government agencies to review and change rules that come in the way of “Buy American” policies, a campaign promise to re-energise manufacturing.

On H-1B, which would be of immediate concern to Indians, the order said it would be policy of the administration to rigorously enforce and administer laws regarding foreign workers “in order to create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests”.

To that end, the order added, the departments of state, justice, labour and homeland security (of which the US Citizenship and Immigration Services that runs the H-1B programmes is a part) will propose new rules and guidelines to protect American workers from “fraud and abuse”.

Also, the four federal agencies will “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries”.

Critics of the programme have argued that the H-1Bs were being used by outsourcing firms to bring in low-skilled workers on low wages — who land up displacing Americans — and not the best and brightest as was originally envisioned.

An analysis released by AP on Tuesday showed computer science hires – who make up three-quarters of the H-1B recipients receive about 9% less, on average, than US workers with similar positions.

Foreign workers, the study went on to show, in non-computer science occupations receive an average of 58% more.

The US has already moved on addressing this issue by announcing a new set of guidelines for those qualifying for H-1B visas. Among the guidelines, computer programmes with no additional qualification will not be acceptable as “speciality occupation”.

Outsourcing companies are accused of flooding the USCIS with applications for relatively basic-level skills in the hope of landing visas through the lottery system and crowding out American companies.

The timeline for the H-1B-related review and changes was not clear in the executive order, which merely said they should be wrapped up “as soon as practicable”.

But the administration has already started making changes, and didn’t wait for the order. It has suspended premium processing of applications, for instance, changed the guideline for defining “speciality occupation” and has issued warning against abuse.

NASSCOM, a trade body representing Indian IT industry told Reuters that it backs efforts to root out H-1B abuses, but said the idea that H-1B visa holders are cheap labour is inaccurate.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • US president Joe Biden says ‘G-7 to ban Russian gold in response to Ukraine war’

    US president Joe Biden says ‘G-7 to ban Russian gold in response to Ukraine war’

    President Joe Biden said Sunday that the United States and other Group of Seven leading economies will ban imports of gold from Russia, the latest in a series of sanctions that the club of democracies hopes will further isolate Russia economically over its invasion of Ukraine. A formal announcement was expected Tuesday as the leaders meet for their annual summit.

  • US First Lady Jill Biden looks on as US President Joe Biden signs the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Saturday. (AFP)

    ‘Do something’: Joe Biden signs rare bipartisan gun control legislation

    United States President Joe Biden signed a rare bipartisan bill which institutionalises a set of limited gun safety measures on Saturday into law. The first legislative reform in three decades on the issue was sparked by a recent spike in mass shoutings across the country, especially a hate crime in Buffalo that killed ten people and a school shooting in Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers.

  • People wait in a long queues to buy fuel for their vehicles at a filling station in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lanka hikes fuel prices as US delegation arrives

    Sri Lanka hiked fuel prices on Sunday, creating further pain for ordinary people as officials from the United States arrived for talks aimed at alleviating the island's dire economic crisis. Ceylon Petroleum Corporation said it raised the price of diesel, used widely in public transport, by 15 percent to 460 rupees ($1.27) a litre while upping petrol 22 percent to 550 rupees ($1.52).

  • China’s Dandong warned of risks for continuous Covid flareups (STR / AFP)

    China’s Dandong warned of risks for continuous Covid flareups

    The Chinese city of Dandong, which borders North Korea, warned on Sunday of a persistent risk of new Covid-19 flareups as it gradually opens up from a weekslong lockdown. The city reported seven asymptomatic cases for Saturday -- half the total number of cases in all of mainland China for the day. Read: Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over Covid Beijing reported one case for Saturday.

  • bortion rights activists hold signs during a protest in front of the Supreme Court building following the announcement to the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling on June 25, 2022 in Washington, DC. 

    Your body belongs to Christ: Anti-abortionists see divine hand in court ruling

    Diana Villanueva's wasn't greeted by the crowds of protestors who often gather outside facilities in the United States to try to persuade women to change their minds. After you go through what you go through then you ponder what you did. That's when the remorse starts kicking in." "A lot of those ladies say: 'It's my body, my choice'. It's not your body; your body belongs to Christ."

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, June 26, 2022