Trump takes first step towards H-1B visa reform

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US President Donald Trump has signed an "executive order" that requires an audit of the H-1B visa program, saying they ought to never be used to displace American workers and must be given to the highly skilled and highest paid candidates.

"The "Buy and Hire American" order I'm about to sign will help protect workers and students like those of you in the audience today", President Trump said to the employees at Snap-on.

The order does nothing specifically to NAFTA for now, but a senior Trump administration official said the US will be doing analysis on the deal to see if it's meeting the "Trump standard of fairness and reciprocity".

Companies that make heavy use of the H-1B program, such as Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. A famous case would be Walt Disney, who replaced a large number of U.S. technology workers with foreign workers who were willing to accept lower wages.

The government allows 85,000 immigrants each year through the H-1B visa programme, which is reserved for foreign nationals in "specialty occupations" and is largely used by the technology industry.

Demand for the current H-1B visa program is so high, a lottery system is now implemented, something of which Trump aims to revamp through a merit system.

The four departments will then submit their findings to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and release a report in 220 days. It could also result in higher application fees.

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The biggest target is the H-1B visa program, which is created to help technology firms fill jobs requiring special skills but which critics say often is used to replace American workers with lower-paid foreign competitors.

Mr Trump is looking to stamp out "abuses" of the time-limited work permits, which are pervasive in the United States high-tech sector, as a first step towards reforming the regime. Studies show that for every H-1B position requested, USA technology companies increase their employment by five workers. "There is a lot we can do administratively, and the rest will be done hopefully legislatively". "Even if only 10 percent (of start-ups) succeed it is still an overall benefit in terms of job creation and innovation".

Executive order aside, both lawmakers and tech industry experts say a larger conversation must still be had about comprehensive immigration reform, as well as training up American workers. As ordered by the Congress, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) consistently issued 65,000 H-1B visas and another 20,000 to those candidates having aces and higher degrees from a US educational organization.

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In some cases, companies must make a good faith effort to hire a US worker before turning to an H-1B worker, but there are many exceptions to this requirement.

During the same event Trump also put his signature on an executive order that seeks to reduce the number of foreign workers who are hired under the H-1B visa program.

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