Trump to sign executive order to revamp H-1B visa rules today

US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order today to revamp a temporary visa programme used to bring foreign workers to fill jobs in the US.

The President will promote his latest ‘Buy American, Hire American’ slogan of his campaign during his visit to a manufacturing company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he will tour the headquarters of Snap-on-Tools, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer, and deliver a speech about US manufacturing.

US President Donald Trump
​US President Donald Trump. Photo courtesy: ​

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on Monday touted the executive order as a “historic step” that would help protect American manufacturers and American workers whom the administration believes have been hurt by lax enforcement of ‘Buy American’ laws and employers abusing the H1-B visa program.

The order looks to bolster protections for certain American-made goods and calls for a review of the H-1B visa program for skilled workers, with the goal of reforming the programme, according to a senior administration official.

Though the executive order does not take direct action to fundamentally change either portion, rather initiating a series of reviews and assessments and calling on federal departments to begin proposing reforms to the programs. The order would send a clear signal to federal agencies responsible for enforcing the programs that the administration wants to see a more aggressive stance, officials said.

“Both ‘Buy American’ and ‘Hire American’ rules have been enormously diluted over time, resulting in many lost job opportunities for American workers,” one senior administration official said, adding that groups on both sides of the aisle have called for reforms of those rules to no avail.

“This is what America wants,” said a second official.

On the ‘Hire American’ front, the executive order directs federal agencies to more strictly enforce H1-B visa laws and propose reforms to the program to prevent fraud and abuse and ensure visas are awarded to the most skilled applicants.

The H1-B visa programme is intended to bring skilled workers in certain fields to the US, but the administration contended that employers have abused the programme to hire workers who will accept cheaper pay than Americans.

The “buy American” portion of the order directs agencies to conduct a “top-to-bottom performance review” of the use of waivers and calls for stricter enforcement laws pertaining to the purchase of US-made goods by the federal government and the use of US-made iron and steel in projects supported by federal funds.

“‘Buy American’ is the Trump administration's highest priority when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars,” one senior administration official said.