U.S. President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order in Wisconsin Tuesday that will order a review of the H-1B highly-skilled worker immigration visa program, a move that the White House says will encourage tech companies to hire American workers instead of cheaper foreign labor.
The “buy American, hire American” directive does not make any immediate changes to the H-1B system, however, but commissions the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review the way H-1B visas are granted. It instructs the agency to pay special attention to visas which should only go to highly paid, specially skilled applicants when there is a U.S. deficiency. This means the visas should not be granted to foreign workers who are simply willing to work for less than U.S. workers. The additional scrutiny DHS has ordered will include “site visits” to determine whether “H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers,” the Trump administration says.
Officials from the Department of Justice warned in April that they will “not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against U.S. workers.” Department of Homeland Security officials said they will require that programmers applying for these visas provide evidence the work they’re doing is highly specialized and complex. Industry experts believe this may harm companies like Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services that outsource those jobs to India. Senior administration officials say that the order will also strengthen rules that bar foreign contractors from bidding on federal government projects.
H-1B visas are granted for three years at a time to foreign workers that have specialized knowledge in fields where there are a shortage of American workers, typically in science, information technology and engineering. To qualify for the visa, workers usually must have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Many Silicon Valley tech companies support the H-1B visa program and will monitor the review the administration has proposed closely.