Behind the visa program targeted by Trump

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to tighten the rules for technology companies seeking to bring highly skilled foreign workers to the U.S. Critics argue that some employers abuse the program by firing American workers and hiring foreign workers, many from India, on the cheap. That's a criticism that has also been widely made by outside analysts.

Two senior Trump administration officials who briefed reporters at the White House said Mr. Trump will also use the "buy American and hire American" order to seek changes in government procurement practices to increase the purchase of American products in federal contracts.

"This is a transitional step to get towards a more skill-based and merit-based version", a USA official told AFP.

It argued that any "onerous additional restrictions" on the H-1B and L-1 visa systems will hurt thousands of U.S. businesses and their efforts to be more competitive as it will hinder their access to talent. To meet the goal of hiring more US citizens, the decree orders a study of fraud and abuse of the H-1B visa program.

On the "hire American" front, the executive order directs federal agencies to more strictly enforce H1-B visa laws and propose reforms to the program to prevent fraud and abuse and ensure visas are awarded to the most-skilled applicants. H-1B visa applications fell to 199,000 this year from 236,000 last year, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. With the USA tech ecosystem creating jobs across the board worldwide he says we are not in a position to hire the best people without access to global talent.

"We've never had a systematic review like this", the official said.

The moves will show Trump once again using his power to issue executive orders to try to fulfill promises he made past year in his election campaign, in this case to reform US immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products.

While the executive order will not change the visa-program, it does order the State Department, Justice Department and Office of Homeland Security to initiate a thorough review of the program and provide recommended legislative changes to Congress.

One senior administration official described "abuse" of the program as any company that "brings in a worker not because you need their skill or talent, but for the goal of undercutting the American worker" by seeking out cheap foreign labor.

It will call on the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to take action to crack down on what the official called "fraud and abuse" in the U.S. immigration system to protect American workers.

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Here's a look at how the H-1B visa program works.

The Trump administration says it believes the order will be supported by labor unions, although it will likely be met with opposition from the tech sector, which has used the H1-B program to boost its workforce.

Over 85,000 H1B visas are issued annually and a huge chunk of these happen to be Indian applicants.

"The highest wage tier, for instance in 2015, was only five per cent of H-1B workers".

They seek a more merit-based way to give the visas to highly skilled workers.

More than 15 percent of Facebook Inc's FB.O U.S. employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. Labor Department filings.

The result of that is that workers are often brought in well below market rates to replace American workers, sort of violating the principle of the programme, which is supposed to be a means for bringing in skilled labour, the official said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka took a softer tone in a Tuesday statement, saying the executive order is "short on specifics" but "addresses critically important issues".

As for the visa program, Democratic lawmakers and organizations ranging from the pro-business Chamber of Commerce to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation say they welcome proposals to improve the visa program, though not always in line with Trump's ideas.

"But you could be looking at things on the administration side like increasing fees for H-1B visas".

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