Saturday, 27 May, 2017

Trump targets visa program for highly skilled workers

Alfredo Watts | 19 April, 2017, 01:33

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that would tighten rules that award visas to skilled foreign workers and directs the federal government to enforce rules that bar foreign contractors from bidding on federal projects.

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.

"The order to be signed by Trump will call for the stringent enforcement of all the laws related to the entry of a foreign national into the U.S. of labour for the mentioned objective of generating high wages and employment rates for the employees in the USA", said one of the senior officials.

H-1B visas are planned for outside nationals in "specialty" occupations that for the most part require advanced education, which as indicated by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) incorporates, however, is not restricted to, researchers, specialists or PC software, engineers. The program is popular with the information technology industry, which Trump has accused of "importing low-wage workers on H-1B visas to take jobs from young college-trained Americans".

Around 85,000 H-1B visas are distributed annually by lottery.

As a presidential candidate Trump promised to repeal the H-1B program, but he has backed off that pledge, instead calling for modifying it. The order will reform the H-1B visa system, used by companies to hire foreigners to fill positions requiring specialist knowledge.

"If you change that current system that awards visas randomly, without regard or skill or wage, to a skill-based awarding, it makes it extremely hard to use the visa to replace or undercut American workers, because you're not bringing in workers at beneath the market wage", the official said. Organizations say they use visas to recruit the best ability.

"We are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first, Trump declared, standing in front of an American flag fashioned out of wrenches".

Congress is considering several bills to overhaul the visa program.

The new executive order on immigration norms is likely to impact the businesses in the United States and their efforts to remain competitive on par with other countries. NASSCOM said it would comment further when there are specific proposals under consideration. If the review finds that the waivers are detrimental to United States workers, the trade deals could be renegotiated, they added. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Washington in February to be open minded on admitting skilled Indian workers.

"Any onerous additional restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 visa systems would hurt thousands of USA businesses and their efforts to be more competitive by hindering access to needed talent", Nasscom said in a statement. The president revived campaign stump speech lines and called the North American Free Trade Agreement a "complete and total disaster" for the US, promising either big changes or totally scrapping the sweeping trade accord.

The executive order will also focus on reviewing waivers in free-trade agreements and whether they allow foreign firms to undermine American companies in the global government procurement market.

While the "Buy American" provisions may run afoul of free-trade agreements, the order specifically asks the secretary to review waivers of these rules in free-trade agreements. The executive order will aim to support stated Trump priorities of "buy American, hire American".