KENOSHA, Wis. President Donald Trump hopes to revive the economic populism that helped drive his election campaign, signing an order today in politically important Wisconsin to tighten rules on technology companies bringing in highly skilled foreign workers.
"This is a transitional step to get towards a more skilled based and merit based version", a White House official told AFP news agency. If the current system is changed and reformed in this way, it will make it extremely hard to replace American workers. The officials also said that the order will enforce "more vigorous stance" if companies are found misusing the visa program.
The administration said it believes the Buy American law is weakened by the excessive granting of waivers and exceptions.
The order will press on the federal departments to propose reforms to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded only to the most skilled or highest paid applicant.
The rules for H-1B applicants were already toughened recently.
Last year, Disney was accused of taking advantage of the H-1B visa scheme to lay off American technology workers, who were forced to train their foreign replacements.
The order will direct the departments of Justice, Labor, State and Homeland Security to take action in cracking down on what these officials called the "fraud and abuse" in the immigration system of USA for protecting the American workers. On the one hand, Trump's hardline rhetoric on immigration already appears to be having some effect on the hiring environment in Silicon Valley: this year, H-1B visa applications declined for the first time in years, dropping from 236,000 in 2016 to 199,999 this year. But critics say they abuse the program, replacing Americans with foreigners who will work for a lower wage and are often stuck in their position for years as their green card application is being processed.
NASSCOM, the Indian IT service industry's main lobby group, said it supports efforts to root out any abuses occurring in the H-1B system, but slammed allegations against the sector, saying the idea that H-1B visa holders are cheap labor, is inaccurate and a campaign to discredit the sector.
"With respect to the H1-B visa programme in particular, which deals mostly with STEM jobs, we graduate about twice as many STEM students each year as find jobs in STEM fields", the senior official said.
The order calls on the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to "take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse" within the us immigration system to "protect workers". "We want to make sure guest worker programmes don't become a way of replacing American labour at less cost".
Through its "more targeted approach", USCIS has also decided to make random and unannounced "targeted site visits" to companies recruiting H-1B employees, in a bid to "focus resources where fraud and abuse of the H-1B program may be more likely to occur".
"Some companies oftentimes are called outsourcing firms". "But you could be looking at things on the administration side like increasing fees for H-1B visas".
The executive order is not expected to address the number of [H-1B] visas that are given out annually. "I don't know if you're asking because you don't know or you're pretending you don't know". They're like the top recipients of H-1B visa. More than 15 per cent of Facebook's United States employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa, according to a Reuters analysis of Labour Department filings.
"And then they'll get the lion's share of visas", the official said.