Trump takes first step towards H-1B visa reform

'Buy American and hire American': Trump

Trump targets visa program for highly skilled workers

His order, entitled "Buy America, Hire American" is meant to target the controversial H-1B visa program where he asked several federal agencies to review and overhaul some of its components.

In addition, the administration will assess guest worker programs and the cost-benefits of free trade provisions, allowing for national treatment of foreign contracts compared to the reciprocal access.

Currently, 85,000 H-1B visas are given out annually to higher skilled foreign workers who have job offers from American firms. Workers in the USA and United States workers are defined as either U.S. citizens or foreign nationals who have permanent residency, seek asylum, have been granted refuge or those who have been authorised to work.

The officials said the order, which Trump will sign at the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc., would direct the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor and State to propose new rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse. That takes work away from Americans, lowers wages and keeps Americans from being trained in tech-related fields, they say.

President Donald Trump is planning to sign an executive order that seeks to make changes to a visa program that brings in high-skilled workers.

Veteran steel industry analyst Michelle Applebaum said while it remains to be seen how thoroughly the Trump administration will police the steel industry, the executive order sends a clear message to steel importers.

"The demand for tech talent right now is at an all time high", said Scott MacKinnon, COO of Technical Connections, a longtime technology staffing firm in Southern California.

But prior to the election, Trump was criticized for his use of the H-1B program to hire cheap labor at his properties.

During a campaign stop in Fort St. John, B.C., this week, provincial Liberal Leader Christy Clark said "hire American" rules may be an opportunity for technology firms in Kelowna and Vancouver to attract the brightest minds from the United States.

Mr Trump's wife Melania used an H-1B visa in her early days as a model in NY, says the BBC's Gary O'Donoghue in Washington.

But the White House says that such exemptions have gone too far and that USA contractors are unjustly losing out.

No. Trump has not capped the number of visas, or made any alterations there.

For too long, he complained, American companies that have bid on USA government contracts - for work ranging from building roads to supplying computer equipment to federal agencies - have unfairly lost out to foreign competitors. If those companies can't secure the workers they need, they could move their operations overseas.

Cutting off the supply of goods not made in the United States would create fresh problems for USA companies, he said. "People who are willing to move to another country to start a company are entrepreneurial by definition".

The policy would have a "somewhat meaningful" impact on the US steel industry, but "I'm kind of skeptical it even happens", Lee McMillan, an analyst at Clarksons Platou Securities, said in a telephone interview.

"At least now, there is a chance, if you are willing to get the degree, you train yourself and you're well prepared, you can also obtain these positions". Since then, the number of H-1B teachers has fallen.

But it falls way short of Mr Trump's campaign pledge to end the H-1B visa programme. But privately executives at most Indian IT firms will admit they are anxious.

Almost 86 per cent of the H-1B visas issued for workers in the computer space go to Indians and this figure is now sure to be scaled down to about 60 per cent or even less, the paper said. And any changes to the work visa process is bad news for India's $150bn IT service industry.

"There's not going to be a light switch that's flipped, and suddenly there's 65,000 new jobs open for Americans only", MacKinnon said, adding, "there is a little bit of showboating going on, saying "I'm bringing jobs back to America" - in about three to six years".

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