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Donald Trump seeks shift in H1B visa allotments, Indian firms to get hit

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-04-2017 Jennifer Epstein

Washington: US President Donald Trump will take aim at information technology outsourcing companies Tuesday when he orders a review of H1B visa programmes to favour more skilled and highly paid applicants.

An administration official who briefed reporters in advance named Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Mphasis Corp. as examples of outsourcing companies that would likely have fewer visas approved as the administration’s changes are adopted. The H1B work visa programme channels thousands of foreign workers to the US technology industry.

Trump will announce the order during a trip to Wisconsin along with instructions to federal agencies to examine their purchasing systems to more effectively favour buying American goods. Two administration officials previewed the orders for reporters on condition of anonymity because they didn’t represent the agencies most directly involved in the policies.

Also read: H1B visa applications drop as US employers anticipate reforms

Trump campaigned on a promise to use the powers of the presidency to encourage companies to buy American products and hire American workers, and the officials portrayed the order as a step toward fulfilling the pledge. The H1B visa system has been criticized following high-profile examples of American workers being replaced by lower-paid foreigners through the program.

The new order asks agencies to propose ideas to direct visas—which are currently distributed by lottery—to the most skilled and highly paid applicants. It doesn’t dictate any specifics about how to achieve the goal. The administration ultimately would like to get rid of the lottery system, one of the officials said.

How much the president can change the program without Congress’s involvement is a matter of debate. The administration has significant leeway in deciding how to carry out the law. It could, for instance, give priority to employers who rely less heavily on holders of H1B visas. Several bills have been proposed in Congress to end the lottery system.

About 6% of the visas currently go to the Labour Department’s top skill level, while eight in 10 workers on the visa are paid less than the median wage for their fields, the White House said in a fact sheet distributed to reporters.

The Trump administration rolled out policy shifts earlier this month to begin cracking down on the H1B visa system. They included a promise to pursue more investigations of fraud and abuses and a warning to employers applying for the visas not to discriminate against US workers. Bloomberg

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