H1-B visa issue: Donald Trump to sign executive orders on H1-B visa reforms; likely to hit Indian tech firms

Namrata Tripathi
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United States President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order on Tuesday to review the H1-B visa programmes which would favour more skilled and highly-paid applicants. The order is likely to hit Indian tech firms.

The Trump order will seek a review of system for creating an "entirely new system" to issue the H1-B visas. The US H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows firms to hire foreign workers in specialised occupations. The H1-B and L1 work visas are majorly used by Indian IT professionals. Currently, the cap on H1-B visas stands at 65,000, out of which 25,000-35,000 are issued to Indian nationals.

A Trump administration official briefed reporters in advance about the reforms, stating outsourcing firms like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Mphasis Corp. will likely have fewer visas approved after the administration's changes are adopted. 

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Trump is scheduled to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to sign the 'Buy American, Hire American' Executive Order, and will likely announce the H1-B reforms order then.

Trump, during his presidential campaign, had promised to encourage companies to hire more Americans workers and buy more products made in America, Trump administration officials said that the order on H1-B visas reforms will be a step towards fulfilling that pledge.  Many have criticised the H1-B visa system, as companies use the programme to replace American workers with lower-paid foreigners.

The executive orders are set to be signed a day after the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has completed the computerised lottery draw of 199,000 H1-B visa applications it received for the fiscal year 2018 beginning October 1 this year.

H1-B visa

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H1B visa applications drop

There was a significant drop, at least 16 percent, in the applications for the H1B visas for highly skilled workers this year than in 2016. The decrease in the applications likely reflect concerns that the Trump administration is set to take a very restrictive approach to the H1-B visa programme.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday said that that employers who sought visas for 2018 submitted only 199,000 applications this year, compared last year's 236,000 applications.

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The number of H1-B visa applications, over the past years, have far exceeded the 85,000 visas available in the US for highly skilled workers. However, this was the first time in the past five years that the total number of visas requests saw a fall.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services

Lottery system denounced

A senior administration official told the White House reporters that the traditional lottery system of the visas were being used by firms to bring in foreign workers to displace local workers. The official said that the reform would see that the specialised visas are allotted to only highly skilled professionals.

"With respect to the H1-B visa programme in particular, which deals mostly with STEM jobs, we graduate about twice as many STEM students each year as find jobs in STEM fields," the senior official said.

"The issue of training workers for skilled manufacturing jobs is a different aspect of a policy than, say, the H1-B visa, which obviously is for STEM occupations," he added.

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