Trump orders review of visa program to encourage hiring Americans

Andrew Cummings
April 20, 2017

Changes outlined in the "Buy American, Hire American" order include a revamp of the H-1B skilled-worker lottery program.

President Donald Trump's latest executive order focuses on the way the federal government gives visas to highly trained foreign workers.

"We are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first", Trump declared, standing in front of an American flag fashioned out of wrenches.

Meanwhile, some United States lawmakers said the executive order signed by Trump calling for a review of H-1B visas was too little and too late. "Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans", Trump said. Some have suggested that companies abuse the privilege and simply hire foreign workers to save money and drive down wages for American workers. Many Trump-branded products, like clothing, are made overseas.

Officials also said government procurement portions of existing trade agreements would be reviewed to see whether US companies get the same chance to sell products to the governments of USA trading partners that foreign firms get in Washington.

Trump said Canada has been "very, very unfair" to dairy farmers and "we're going to start working on that".

Trump's visit to Wisconsin takes him to the congressional district of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who won't be joining the president because he's on a congressional trip visiting North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

"Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery - and that's wrong", he said on Tuesday in Wisconsin, where he signed the order. His businesses have also hired foreign workers, including at his Palm Beach, Florida, club. And H-1B visas-which let in skilled foreign workers-have become an important focal point, given the debates over economic migration and outsourcing as well as Trump's past business practices.

Trump campaigned on a promise to use the powers of the presidency to encourage companies to buy American products and hire American workers, and the officials portrayed the order as a step toward fulfilling the pledge. 65,000 visas are granted each year, with 20,000 other visas for graduates.

At over 15 percent, Facebook had the highest percentage of H-1B contractors of any US tech operating company.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Gopal Baglay said India was also in touch with the Australian government regarding the changes in that country's work visa programme. Texas ranks second only to California in the number of H-1B visa applications, and the employers requesting the visas mirror national trends.

"The effect would end up being exactly the opposite of what Trump wants", he said.

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