Trump orders review of H-1B work visa scheme

President Donald Trump says a new executive order will ensure that federal agencies enforce rules to end abuse of the H-1B visa programme used to bring high-skilled foreign workers to the United States. VIDEO: REUTERS
The order is an attempt by US President Donald Trump to carry out his "America First" campaign pledges.
The order is an attempt by US President Donald Trump to carry out his "America First" campaign pledges. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump is taking aim at information technology outsourcing companies with an order to review the H-1B visa programme to favour more skilled and highly paid applicants.

The H-1B work visa programme channels thousands of foreign workers to the US technology industry, but has been criticised following high-profile examples of American workers being replaced by lower-paid foreigners.

An administration official has named Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant Technology Solutions and Mphasis as examples of outsourcing firms that would likely have fewer visas approved as the administration's changes are adopted.

Mr Trump was due to sign the order yesterday during a visit to a tool manufacturer in Wisconsin.

The order is an attempt by Mr Trump to carry out his "America First" campaign pledges. About 6 per cent of the visas now go to what the Labour Department defines as top skill level, while eight in 10 workers on the visa are paid less than the median wage for their fields, the White House said yesterday.

The Labour, Justice, Homeland Security and State departments will be called on to crack down on what the official called "fraud and abuse" in the immigration system.

H-1B visas are for foreigners in "speciality" occupations that generally require higher education, which include scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The US government awards 65,000 visas by lottery a year and randomly distributes a further 20,000 to graduate student workers. H-1B visa applications fell to 199,000 this year from 236,000 last year, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The review is also looking into whether waivers in free trade agreements are leading to unfair trade by allowing foreign companies to undercut US firms in the global government procurement market.

Two senior officials said Mr Trump will use his "buy American and hire American" order to change government procurement practices to increase the purchase of American products in federal contracts.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Trump orders review of H-1B work visa scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe