Trump Signs Executive Order, Calls for Review of the H-1B Visa Program

Travel Ban

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order called “Buy American, Hire American”, which ordered certain government agencies to review the laws and regulations that currently govern the H-1B program, in order to end fraud and abuse in the H-1B program and prioritize visa issuance for the highest-skilled workers. The executive order does not result in any immediate changes to the H-1B program, and we expect that H-1B petitions will continue to be processed according to the same standards that have been in place for years. Any major changes to the H-1B program would likely require new legislation from Congress or approval through a lengthy formal rule-making process.

The executive order “directs federal agencies to more strictly enforce H-1B visa laws and propose reforms to the program to prevent fraud and abuse and ensure visas are being awarded to the most-skilled applicants.”

While no changes to the H-1B program have been pushed through at this juncture and there is no direct impact to the H-1B visa applications which have been received and are currently being processed by USCIS for fiscal year 2018, President Trump has called for a complete review and research into the H-1B program and lottery system. The goal of these possible changes, according to President Trump, would be to prioritize visas for higher-skilled, higher wage-earning foreign workers rather than the lottery system currently in place.

The executive order will also call on federal agencies to review and lessen the use of waivers and exceptions to “Buy American” laws already on the books and to ensure that America’s free trade agreements are serving America’s economic interests.

Tuesday’s signing triggers a “top to bottom performance review” by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to be submitted within 220 days on weak enforcement and rooting out Buy American loopholes.

As always, we will be monitoring any changes to the H-1B program and will keep our clients informed.

Read more about the executive order here.