Trump tightens skilled-worker visa rules to encourage hiring Americans

Cheryl Sanders
May 1, 2017

"With this action, we are sending a powerful signal to the world: We're going to defend our workers, protect our jobs, and finally put America first", Trump told hundreds of factory workers at the headquarters of Snap-on Inc., a tool manufacturer, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, before signing the document.

"Right now, widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries", President Trump said.

Voicing immediate reservations about the decree, the US Chamber of Commerce, however, warned the Trump administration not to do away with the whole H-1B scheme, also acknowledging that there was room for improving the program.

Citizenship and Immigration Services has also muddled the hiring process for Silicon Valley companies.

Another directive of the new Executive Order requires relevant agencies to make sure that the controversial H-1B temporary visa are given only to the most skilled and highly paid immigrant workers. He vowed to end the H1-B program which, he said, allowed big business to fire Americans and replace them with foreigners.

Administration officials said that the order seeks to strengthen requirements that US-made products be used in certain federal construction projects, as well as in various federal transportation grant-funded projects. "The department fully supports the U.S. Department of Justice in cautioning employers who petition for H-1B visas not to discriminate against U.S. workers, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse".

The order is an attempt by Trump to carry out his "America First" campaign pledges to reform USA immigration policies and encourage the purchase of American products.

While Trump has long promised to reform the controversial visa scheme, the executive orders will come too late to have a direct effect on this year's visa season, which commenced on April 1.

As Mr Trump's presidency nears the symbolic 100-day mark, the 70-year-old leader is 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. The selected and approved applicants are granted H-1B visas, thus terming it as a lottery system. Over half-a-dozen pieces of legislation have been introduced (and reintroduced) since January 2017 to curb alleged misuse of the H-1B visa regime from both Democrats and Republicans, including one that has called for higher minimum wage of $1,30,000, almost double from the current levels. This year, 199,000 applications were received, CNN reported.

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