Trump targets visa program he says hurts American workers

Hire Americans Trump to seek changes in H-1B visa program

In a blow to Indian IT industry and professionals, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop its "abuse" and ensure that the visas are given to the "most-skilled or highest paid" petitioners.

President Trump is trying to put more muscle into his campaign slogan of "Buy American and Hire American" and is preparing to sign an executive order Tuesday aimed at strengthening existing government policies to support domestic products and workers.

Trump criticized the visa program, determined by a lottery, as an off-the-rails initiative that has driven down wages for American workers in the same fields.

While the order will not immediately translate into a visible drop in the number of H-1B visas issued, it will require the Departments of State, Labor, Justice and Homeland Security to make revisions in their regulations to protect American workers.

"We're going to switch away from a random lottery system in which it's weighted toward the lowest-wage workers towards a system that prioritizes higher-skilled, higher-paid workers, which would make it much more hard to use it to replace American workers", a senior administration official said Monday.

Trump will sign the order in Wisconsin, a state he won last November with an appeal to blue-collar workers and a promise to revive manufacturing jobs. 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.

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He campaigned previous year on promises to overhaul US trade and regulatory policy, but his executive orders on those issues reflect the administration bowing somewhat to the limits of presidential power.

Going to a merit-based system "would ensure that only the most-skilled or highest-paid foreign workers would be chosen, incentivizing companies to look to hire American workers first", Lee added.

Companies that make heavy use of the H-1B program, such as Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp.

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. A close family member lost his job to a foreign worker because of this visa.

Additionally, it asked them to propose new rules and guidance for preventing fraud and abuse of work visas. "But [the order] calls for stepped-up enforcement and that could mean things like doing more random visits of employers, or audits of employers who have a high percentage of H-1B visa holders". The company employs about 11,000 people worldwide.

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