High-skills visa applications drop ahead of Trump move to limit program

High-skills visa applications drop ahead of Trump move to limit program

President Donald Trump tours Snap-On Tools alongside Snap-On CEO Nick Pinchuk, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in Kenosha, Wisc. on April 18, 2017, prior to signing the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order.

President Trump on Tuesday will take what the White House is calling a "transitional step" toward a revamped immigration system, ordering a review of a visa program meant to attract skilled immigrant labor that administration officials say has been abused to the detriment of American workers. Federal agencies will review the visa program and propose new reforms, which according to The Washington Post, could come by changing the existing lottery system-possibly by giving priority to foreigners applying for the visas who have US master's degrees-or making administrative changes, such as raising visa application fees.

But critics say the program has been hijacked by staffing companies that use the visas to import foreigners - often from India - who will work for less than Americans.

A senior Trump administration official says the order calls for "the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labor from overseas".

The executive order calls on the departments of Commerce, Labor, Homeland Security and State to more strictly police the visa program.

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. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump wanted to visit "a company that builds American-made tools with American workers". Meanwhile, news came out Tuesday morning that applications for first-time H-1B visas have dropped dramatically this year.

The government uses a lottery system to grant 65,000 visas every year and randomly distributes an additional 20,000 to graduate students.

Under the order, which Trump signed during a trip to Wisconsin, agencies involved with the program will be tasked with reviewing how visas are granted, although it's unclear what changes would be implemented after the review. The program is used to bring highly skilled foreign workers to the United States.

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The order is expected to tighten the process of issuing H-1B visas and potentially create an "entirely new structure" for awarding these visas mostly used by technology professionals.

According to the Department of Labor Infosys, Tata Consultancy, Cognizant.

"We hope the goal of President Trump's executive order on the H-1B program is 'mend it, don't end it, '" said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology industry group. Changing certain fundamental elements, like how many visas are awarded each year, requires action from Congress.

Politically, however, there is much criticism of the way in which H-1B visas function.

The US president can not, by a simple decree, change the number of visas allocated.

This month USCIS received 199,000 H-1B visa petitions; as a result the federal agency had to resort to a computerised draw of lots to decide the fate of successful applicant.

The order will seek to close loopholes that allow the government to buy cheaper goods and services from overseas.

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