President Trump’s Buy American Hire American Executive Order seeks to limit the H-1B visa labor force


The H-1B visa program is for foreigners seeking to work in the US in certain ”specialty occupations,” like fashion modeling, or in an occupation that requires a high degree of knowledge. Tech workers in Silicon Valley are common H-1B visa holders, and the cap for fiscal year 2018 is 85,000 workers. The New York Times reported that researchers estimate that there are currently 600,000 to 900,000 workers in the US on H-1B visas, and that at least 15 percent of the American workforces of Facebook and Qualcomm, a chip maker, hold H-1Bs.

In a separate article, the Times explained that the government begins accepting applications for H-1B visas on April 1. This year, it received 199,000 of them, and will decide who is to receive them by a lottery system. Lately, about 70 percent have gone to citizens of India.

Buy American Hire American

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed his Buy American and Hire American executive order. Its crux was to reinforce the policy of prioritizing U.S. manufactured goods first, and of “rigorously enforcing” immigration laws. In a press release, the president promoted his order on the grounds that reform of our immigration policies and trade deals are needed because they currently place American firms and workers at a disadvantage.

Buy American and Hire American simply orders the heads of all agencies to study their activities, and make sure that they are complying with these priorities, or to develop policies and procedures that will help them do so. They have approximately five months to comply with this directive, and submit their findings to the Secretary of Commerce and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Also in that time frame, the Secretary of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative are to look into the impact of the various free trade agreements on the implementation of domestic procurement preferences.

Within about seven months, the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the United States Trade Representative, are to submit a report to the president containing “specific recommendations to strengthen implementation of Buy American Laws…”

Additionally, Buy American and Hire American orders the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security “to suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

The above-mentioned Times report, a previous version of which was titled “Trump Signs Visa Order, and Tech Giants Exhale,” pointed out that industry will not see any immediate changes, and that larger companies, like GoDaddy, the domain name and web hosting firm, will probably be ok, because the policy is “preferential to the expert work force.” Even so, smaller firms utilizing similar levels of expertise, but unable to pay wages that are competitive with the big companies, may suffer.

And according to Barron’s, the Executive Order “is the most profound evidence yet that [the president is] serious about cracking down on supposed abuse of these labor permits. That’s more bad news for India’s already-flailing information-technology outsourcers, such as Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services.”

Perhaps to avoid the president’s wrath, Infosys, which describes itself as a “global leader in technology services and consulting,” announced, in a May 2, 2017 press release, that it plans to hire 10,000 American workers over the next two years, in addition to the current team of “over 200,000 innovators, across the globe.”

To this end, Infosys wants to open a tech hub in Indiana this August, and three more in other US locations to be specified later. The Indiana facility would create 2,000 jobs by 2021. The hubs “will not only have technology and innovation focus areas, but will closely serve clients in key industries such as financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, energy and more.”

This is not the only change Infosys plans to make. Reuters pointed out that that the tech giant will reduce its H-1B visa applications substantially, from 6,500 in 2016, and 9,000 in 2015, to just under 1,000 this year.








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