Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Trump targets visas program for highly skilled workers

Melinda Barton | 19 April, 2017, 07:17

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered federal agencies to look at tightening the H-1B visa programme used to bring high-skilled foreign workers to the US, as he tries to carry out his campaign pledges to put "America First".

In addition to addressing the visas issue, he also ordered a review of government procurement rules favouring American companies to see if they are actually benefiting, especially the USA steel industry.

Hundreds of protesters called on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns while they waited for the Republican to arrive at Snap-on Tools in Kenosha Tuesday, April 18th.

The "Buy American" portion of the order will ask the U.S. Trade Representative and Commerce Department to increase America-based production and to reduce the number of waivers and exceptions to existing Buy American laws in worldwide trade agreements.

The officials said the order also seeks to strengthen requirements that American-made products be used in certain federal construction projects, as well as in various federal transportation grant-funded projects. In this case, the reports are about granting visas for highly skilled foreign workers and ensuring that government purchasing programs buy American made goods as required by law.

Specifically targeted: The H-1B visa program, which allows 85,000 foreign workers into the United States each year to take specific high-skilled jobs with USA companies.

Among other measures, the administration suggested increasing the fees for H-1B visas, ramping up enforcement of visa fraud and adjusting wage scales for H-1B professions to prevent companies from hiring cheaper, foreign workers to replace Americans. This visit will be Trump's first trip to Wisconsin since taking office.

The president called the order "bold new steps" toward making good on his campaign promises to generate more jobs for out-of-work Americans. The White House said the program is now undercutting American workers by bringing in cheaper labor. He's also expected to sign another executive order. An official with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also circulated a memo meant to reserve approvals for computer programming to more senior positions. Specifically, they would look into whether waivers in free-trade agreements are leading to unfair trade by companies outside the US and whether it undercuts American companies on a global playing field. The waivers could be renegotiated or revoked if they are not benefiting the United States.

In an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos last June, Trump said, "It's very, very hard to get people in Palm Beach during the Palm Beach season". Numerous overseas workers are willing to work for as little as $60,000 annually, far less than $100,000-plus salaries typically paid to US technology workers.

While the coming changes to the visa program could be a boon for major tech companies, outsourcing firms could suffer.

The number of requests for H-1B visas declined this year by about 15 percent, or roughly 37,000 applications, but the total was still almost 200,000, far more than the 85,000 limit.

Meanwhile, the irony of a tech-targeted order (whether toothsome or toothless) coming from a president who relies on foreign workers to in part staff his hotel operations was not lost on the commentariat. Trump now has only a 41 percent approval rating in the state.