New Trump Executive Order Clamps Down on H-1B Visas As Petitions Fall

April 21, 2017

As petitions to obtain the H-1B visa fell by 16 percent this year, President Trump signed an executive order directing certain federal agencies to "suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries," while a new report shows that, contrary to popular opinion, large tech firms tend to pay H-1B workers more than the DOL-set "prevailing wage."  The Executive Order, titled "Buy American and Hire American," mandates that the Attorney General and the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security recommend H-1B reforms "as soon as practicable... in order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program."  The order is the latest in a string of moves by the administration to clamp down on alleged abuses of the visa, a policy predicated on the notion that H-1B visas represent a loophole for employers to obtain cheap labor and thereby crowd out Americans from the domestic labor market.  The San Francisco Chronicle, however, contradicts that claim and suggests that a more nuanced approach to the issue may be needed.  "Labor and wage conditions vary across the country," the article states.  "But experts worry that characterizing all H-1B recipients as underpaid foreign workers is dangerous for a program that Silicon Valley has come to rely on to staff many engineering positions—often at six-figure salaries."