US President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order that would tighten the process of issuing the H-1B visas, and seek a review of the system for creating an "entirely new structure" for awarding these visas, the most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Wisconsin, the home state of House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, to sign the 'Buy American, Hire American' executive order.
This was a transitional step aimed at achieving a more skills-based and merit-based immigration system.
The executive order would be signed a day after the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has completed the computerised draw of lots from the 1,99,000 petitions it received for the Congressional mandated 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2018 beginning 1 October this year.
The lottery was held for the 20,000 H-1B visas for those applicants having higher education from US educational institutions.
Enough Qualified People Within US
Opposing the traditional lottery system for H-1B visas, a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told White House reporters that these visas were being used by companies to bring in foreign workers at a low wage rate and displace local workers.
The official argued that there were enough qualified people within the country to meet the demand of technology professionals.
With respect to the H-1B visa programme in particular, which deals mostly with STEM jobs, we graduate about twice as many STEM students each year as they find jobs in STEM fields.
The official argued that in reality, the US has a large number of unemployed American workers.
"If you make it harder to abuse the guest-worker programmes, it creates more of a market for domestic workers, as well as more of a market for the kinds of job training and vocational training programmes that you're talking about," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump had made the alleged abuse and fraud in H-1B visa system a major election issue during his campaign.
The executive order signed by Trump today will call for the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labour from abroad, for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in America, the official said.
According to the senior administration official, these reforms were broadly supported by groups that represent American workers in the US, and that a lot of the driving action historically for these kinds of guest-worker reforms have been from groups that in fact even tilt towards Democratic.
Cheap Labour Over Skilled Labour
Noting that right now the H-1B visas were awarded by random lottery, the official said 80 percent of H-1B workers were paid less than the median wage in their fields.
Only about five to six percent, depending on the year, of H1-B workers command the highest wage tier recognised by the Department of Labour, there being four wage tiers, he said.
The result of that is that workers are often brought in well below market rates to replace American workers, sort of violating the principle of the programme, which is supposed to be a means for bringing in skilled labour, the official said.
"And instead, you're bringing in, a lot of times, workers who are actually less skilled and lower paid than the workers that they're replacing," he stated.
The top three recipients of the H-1B visas, the official said, were Tata (TCS), Infosys and Cognizant.
"Some companies often times are called outsourcing firms. They're like the top recipients of H-1B visa. You know, are companies like Tata (TCS), Infosys, Cognizant. They will apply for a very large number of visas; more than they get. Like putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle, if you will," the official said.
As part of the executive order, the agencies have been asked to do everything they can, he said.
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