Trump signs order on high-skilled worker visas

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Trump signed an executive order on enforcing and reviewing the H-1B visa, popular in the technology industry, on a visit to the headquarters of Snap-On Inc, a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

With the order, Trump is formally calling for the secretary of commerce and the US trade representative to assess "the impacts of all USA free trade agreements" as part of the new plan.

H-1B visas, which are awarded on a lottery system, are capped at 85,000 nationwide. "Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants and they should never ever be used to replace Americans".

"If it turns out America is a net loser because of those free-trade agreement waivers, which apply to nearly 60 countries, these waivers may be promptly renegotiated or revoked", the second official said.

Signing the executive order Trump said the order sends a powerful signal to the world that the United States will defend its workers, protect their jobs and put America first. "Does that make sense?" he said.

The latest executive order comes at a time when the businessman-turned-politician is nearing his 100th day in office, looking to regain momentum on the domestic front after his flagship travel ban was blocked in court and his vaunted health reform foundered in Congress.

No matter, he's right on the overall thrust of this executive order. Perhaps most significantly, the executive orders will demand that all publically financed infrastructure and construction projects use US-made steel in their projects.

"No longer are we going to allow foreign countries to cheat our producers and our workers out of federal contracts". Less than a week after the application period opened for 2017 H-1B visas, the annual cap was reached from a pool of 199,000 applications, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services said earlier this month.

Specifically targeted: The H-1B visa program, which allows 85,000 foreign workers into the United States each year to take specific high-skilled jobs with USA companies.

The H1-B visa program is used primarily for the upper tier of highly-skilled workers in the science, medical and engineering fields.

The officials also said that 80 percent of the H1-B visa petitioners who enter the U.S. under the current visa programme are paid less than the median wage workers in their field.

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U.S. authorities will also conduct site visits to check on employers who hire H-1B visa holders over Americans.

"80 percent (of H-1B visa-holders) receive less than the median wage, and only 10 percent receive the median wage".

"This historic act of leadership from President Trump makes unequivocally clear that this Administration will serve and protect the American worker - fighting for fair trade and immigration policies that promote rising wages and employment for our hardworking citizens".

"Currently, companies routinely abuse the H-1B visa programme by replacing American workers with lower paid foreign workers", it said.

"This does nothing", said Senator Charles Schumer of NY, the Democratic leader. In other words, nothing is happening immediately. It's not going to fix the problem.

"The Hire American rules that govern many of our visa and guest worker policies have gone unenforced or have been abused to the point of rendered, in some cases, even inoperative".

"Buy American" requirements that are written into US law "have been gutted", he said, by loopholes, allowing too many contracts to go to overseas bidders.

Trump has said he would like to reform the United States immigration system, including the H1-B visas, but has so far focused most of his attention on cracking down on illegal immigration, with greater immigration enforcement and a proposed border wall with Mexico.

In addition, the text of the EO directs that reforms should be focused on ensuring that H-1B status is only granted to those who are the "most-skilled" or the "highest-paid".

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

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