Washington: US President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order that would tighten the process of issuing the H-1B visas and seek a review of the system for creating an ‘entirely new structure’ for awarding these visas, the most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the home state of House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, to sign the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Executive Order.
This was a transitional step aimed at achieving a more skills-based and merit-based immigration system. The executive order would be signed a day after the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has completed the computerised draw of lots from the 199,000 petitions it received for the Congressional mandated 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2018 beginning October 1 this year.
Opposing the traditional lottery system for H-1B visas, a senior administration official told White House reporters that these visas were being used by companies to bring in foreign workers at a low wage rate and displace local workers.
The official argued that there were enough qualified people within the country to meet the demand of technology professionals. “With respect to the H-1B visa programme in particular, which deals mostly with STEM jobs, we graduate about twice as many STEM students each year as find jobs in STEM fields.
“The issue of training workers for skilled manufacturing jobs is a different aspect of a policy then, say, the H-1B visa, which obviously is for STEM occupations,” the official said. The official argued that the reality was that the US has large numbers of unemployed American workers. “Right now we’re creating an environment with our guest-worker programmes where those workers are being bypassed,” the official said.
“If you make it harder to abuse the guest-worker programmes, it creates more of a market for domestic workers, as well as more of a market for the kinds of job training and vocational training programmes that you’re talking about,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Trump had made the alleged abuse and fraud in H-1B visa system a major election issue during his campaign.
The executive order signed by Trump today will call for the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labour from abroad, for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in America, the official said.
“It would further call on the departments of Labour, Justice, Homeland Security and State to take prompt action to crackdown on fraud and abuse, which should both be understood as separate problems, in our immigration system in order to protect workers in the United States and their economic conditions,” the official asserted.
“This (executive order) would apply across the board, but in particular, the executive order has an additional clause on the H-1B visa programme, and calls on those same four departments to put forward reforms to see to it that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants,” the official said.
The official said Trump has done more to bring a national spotlight onto the abuses in the H-1B guest-worker programme than anybody in the country has at any point in recent history. “If you change that current system that awards visas randomly without regard for skill or wage to a skills-based awarding, it makes it extremely difficult to use the visa to replace or undercut American workers. These are not bringing in workers at beneath the market wage,” he said. The top three recipients of the H-1B visas, the official said, were Tata (TCS), Infosys and Cognizant.
“Some companies oftentimes are called outsourcing firms. They’re like the top recipients of H-1B visa. You know, are companies like Tata (TCS), Infosys, Cognizant. They will apply for a very large number of visas; more than they get. Like putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle, if you will,” the official said.