Trump Signs Executive Order To End H-1B ‘Misuse’

US President Donald Trump has signed a fresh executive order aimed at, what he calls, end misuse of H-1B visas. The order substantially raises the bar for foreign guest workers and aims to weeding out poorly-qualified workers who come to US to do work at less wages and put in long hours.

Donald Trump

In what could be another jolt to the IT industry in India, US President Donald Trump has signed  an executive order that would curtail, what the US feels, the purported misuse of guest workers visa.

The order, signed on Tuesday, substantially raises the bar for foreign guest workers used by US and Indian companies to do work on US soil. These are the types of work that American workers were thought to be unwilling or unable to do.

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But Trump supporters say the aim is not to curtail workers, but to restore the original goal of the guest worker programme of infusing highly-qualified foreign workers to do high-end jobs in the US.

They point out under the guise of bringing in highly qualified workers, companies misused the H-1B visa programme by sending in entry-level workers to replace US workers at lower wages. These workers also work for longer hours on projects.

One redeeming factor is that the executive order does not impose a moratorium on guest worker visas. This moratorium was one of Trump’s promises during his presidential campaign. He has also put on the backburner his promise to terminate or curtail the 85,000 H-1B visas every year. Indian companies take almost half the number.

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In what is seen as a softening of approach, the Trump administration hopes to bring in key changes including an overhaul of the lottery system. This system is used to determine the metrics on which H-1B visas are sponsored.

The aim is more to eliminate the alleged systematic abuse of the visa regime, particularly by Indian body-shopping companies.

The executive order also aims at weeding out poorly-qualified, less-skilled workers. Briefing the media in Washington, US officials said 80 per cent of petitioners who enter the US under the current visa programme are paid less than the median wage for workers in their fields. This suggested that these workers not only displaced American workers but also undercut wages.

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But Indian IT majors have challenged many of these assumptions. For example the assumption that H-1B workers are less paid is not true as the laws in the US forbid this.

However, IT majors in India do admit that there may have been a misuse of the visa programme by a few dodgy body-shopping firms. This surely has sullied the market.

Raj Shankar

Shankar Raj is a senior journalist with more than 30 years experience, mostly with The Indian Express and The New Indian Express. He was the Editor for Karnataka and Kerala editions of The New Indian Express, and former Managing Editor of the Nyusu Digital Media P Ltd. Bengaluru.

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