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President Trump Signs Executive Order Urging Reform of the H-1B Visa Program

The White House

Yesterday, President Trump signed his latest executive order titled “Buy American and Hire American.” In the order, government agencies are asked to review policies related to all visa programs and recommend changes to root out “fraud and abuse” and to propose additional reforms so that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants. While the executive order does call on these agencies to move toward H-1B reform, there will be no immediate changes or impacts to the program.

Further, the executive order does not give a specific time period in which this must be accomplished. The executive order reads that federal agencies should suggest reform “as soon as practicable.”

While agencies such as the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been instructed to undertake a review of the H-1B program, the reality is that many of the changes contemplated by the administration will require legislative action, or at minimum, the lengthy rulemaking process.

This executive order comes as part of President Trump’s campaign promise to reduce the number of lower wage foreign hires in the U.S. workforce and bring job opportunities back to American employees. While signing this order, Trump stated that it will “defend our workers, protect our jobs, and finally put America first.”

The eventual goal of these reforms is speculated to put in place a merit-based H-1B immigration system which prioritizes visas for higher-skilled, higher wage-earning foreign workers in place of the current H-1B lottery system.

In addition to calling for H-1B reform, the executive order also stresses a preference for federal projects to use steel, iron and other goods that are manufactured and made in the United States.

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