Trump targets visas program for highly skilled workers

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

It will call on the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to crack down on what the official called "fraud and abuse" in U.S. immigration to protect USA workers, and propose reforms to ensure H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest paid applicant.

Changes outlined in the "Buy American, Hire American" order include a revamp of the H-1B skilled-worker lottery program.

"With this action, we are sending a powerful signal to the world: We're going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first", Mr Trump said. They would also be asked to offer changes so that H-1B visas are awarded to the 'most-skilled or highest-paid applicants'.

Mr Trump on Tuesday accused employers of exploiting these visas to hire foreign workers and undercut American workers' wages.

But a majority of the visas are awarded to outsourcing firms, sparking criticism by skeptics who say those firms use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs. 65,000 visas are granted each year, with 20,000 other visas for graduates.

The president's America first motto doesn't match the reality of business practices that made him millions.

When he was running for president, then-candidate Trump said he routinely hired seasonal foreign workers for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach because it was nearly impossible to hire American workers. A group of Goldman Sachs analysts have estimated that 900,000 to 1 million H-1B visa holders now reside in the U.S. And while H-1B visa holders comprise only 0.6-0.7 percent of total U.S.jobs, the analysts estimate they comprise about 12-13 percent of tech related jobs. It instructs the agency to pay special attention to visas which should only go to highly paid, specially skilled applicants when there is a US deficiency. Department of Homeland Security officials said they will require that programmers applying for these visas provide evidence the work they're doing is highly specialized and complex. "The H-1B visa system exists specifically because of the persistent shortage of highly-skilled domestic talent in the United States", the statement said. According to myvisajobs.com, Wipro, with a location in Franklin, has more than 9,500 H-1B employees who earn an average salary of $82,000 per year.

The order specifically singles out the HB-1 visas, which allow United States employers to temporarily hire skilled, foreign workers. "I never thought a day like this would ever come in my life".

"Buy American" provisions also may run afoul of free trade agreements, though the White House wants to conduct a full review before seeking adjustments to those trade agreements.

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