US President Orders Changes to H1-B Visa Program

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

But it's not as straightforward as it sounds.

The order is an attempt by Mr Trump to carry out his "America First" campaign pledges to reform U.S. immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products. It's more complicated than that, though, because it involves a number of existing federal financial assistance programs and labor policies which Trump's team says have been "enormously diluted over time". One of the most popular was to steer the U.S.to "buy American, hire American".

It was unclear whether the latest such order would yield immediate results. Not yet, since there is no direct action to that effect in the order, but there is an invitation for reform proposals from United States agencies in view of the programme.

"Buy American and hire American", Trump said at a rally in Des Moines. In other words, nothing is happening immediately.

Research from Computerworld (and cited in the Goldman Sachs report) found that in 2014, the top users of H-1B visas were all consulting and outsourcing companies, including Tata Consultancy (7,149 visas), Cognizant (5,228 visas), Infosys (4,022 visas), and Wipro (3,246 visas).

Trump complained that today's H-1B visa system is a mess, with visas being awarded at random in a lottery. To qualify for the visa, workers usually must have a bachelor's degree or higher. Trump wants to tighten some of the rules in the program to "prevent fraud or abuse".

"There are likely provisions in it to make sure H-1B visas are going to their intended objective and are not being abused by corporations to down cut American wages and cause layoffs and unemployment", Wolf said.

"It's possible it may have a bully pulpit effect, but it's also possible that businesses might see this (executive order) as window dressing", said Spriggs, a Howard University economics professor who served as assistant secretary for policy in the Labor Department under President Barack Obama.

The timeline for the H-1B-related review and changes was not clear in the executive order, which merely said they should be wrapped up "as soon as practicable".

"The fact is, NAFTA has been a disaster for the United States - a complete and total disaster", he said.

"I know he won't because he made a promise he's going to fix this for the hard working men and women, and we can't bankrupt the middle class of this country to give them insurance in name only", Trump Jr. said.

But Trump has been accused of hypocrisy because his properties have hired temporary foreign workers while many of his own branded products are made overseas.

Under Trump's order, part of a "Buy American/Hire American" plan, government agencies are being directed to review their procurement practices and require that exceptions to the "buy American" rules be approved by the heads of those agencies.

Trump supporters loved the announcement.

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