President Trump is attempting to fulfill another campaign promise by ordering federal agencies to begin reform of the H-1B visa program.
During the campaign Trump highlighted the program’s exploitation by employers who replace American workers with lower-paid foreign workers.
More recently the President said, “Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery, and that’s wrong. Instead, they should be given to the most-skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans.”
The Executive Order directs the Attorney General, and the Secretaries of State, Labor and Homeland Security to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”
It’s estimated that 90% of H-1B visas are held by high tech workers. The Customs and Immigration Service recently announced that it received 199,000 petitions for only 85,000 new H-1B slots for 2017.
As in the past, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select 85,000 petitions to process, leaving 114,000 petitions to be returned unprocessed.
Most of the anger has been aimed at two large India-based IT consulting companies that manage to snag a large percentage of each year’s H-1B quota.
One of these, Infosys, recently said it will hire 10,000 Americans in an effort to diffuse this anger.
“The use of contractors, whether they are foreign or U.S. workers – or outsourcing labor to increase flexibility and reduce costs – is not new. But the President is probably correct that the H-1B program should not be used for this purpose,” says attorney Penni Bradshaw of Constangy Brooks Smith & Prophete.
“Some employers may welcome an opportunity to pay more to get truly exceptional foreign workers. But that could create a whole new problem: H-1B workers who are paid more than their American counterparts,” she adds.