Pres. Trump signed his "Buy American, Hire American" executive order today that will direct government departments to review how H-1B visas are awarded and suggest changes so that only the highly-skilled and higher paid applicants receive the temporary work visa. This order is the first step towards moving the program from a random lottery approach to a merit-based system.

H-1B visas are temporary visas that can last for three years and then renewed for another three. H-1B visas are given to 65,000 foreign workers and 20,000 graduate student workers each year. In addition, an uncapped amount are available for foreign workers in academia and other non-profit fields.

Current policy awards H-1B visas through a lottery system with many of the visas being awarded to outsourcing firms or to companies who used the foreign workers as cheap labor to replace American workers. In some cases, such as at Disney, the American workers were forced to train their foreign replacements.

“Right now H-1B visas are awarded by random lottery and many of you will be surprised to know that about 80% of H-1B workers are paid less than the median wage in their fields. Only 5% to 6%, depending on the year, of H-1B workers command the highest wage tier recognized by the Department of Labor,” a senior administration official said.

The official also stated that, “If you change that current system that awards visas randomly, without regard for skill or wage, to a skills-based awarding, it makes it extremely difficult to use the visa to replace or undercut American workers ... It’s a very elegant way of solving very systemic problems in the H-1B guest worker visa.”

“This is a first step toward reforms that could be great news for tens of thousands of American workers who have been kept out of their field of expertise through the misuse of H-1B visas. We hope to see new rules establishing transparency, salary floors and other criteria to ensure these visas are used for only truly high skill positions in which there is a true shortage of American workers,” said NumbersUSA President and Founder, Roy Beck.

Read more on this story at The Guardian.

Trump’s Executive Orders
H-1B visas
High-skilled Americans

Updated: Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 4:05pm EDT