President Trump is signing a ‘Buy American, Hire American’ order that seeks to change certain aspects of the H-1B skilled worker visa. Much has been made of H-1B visa abuses supplanting American workers and wages, so what exactly do these proposed changes actually mean for those currently on, or trying to get an H-1B visa?
The White House stated that many H-1B visa recipients are paid below the average wage for the field they are working in because they are often not the most highly skilled person being selected to come over and work in the United States. This drives down wages for that skilled sector, often discouraging American workers or pricing them out of the job as companies prefer the cheaper foreign workers.
The newly signed order will look to make sure the companies bringing in workers on an H-1B visa provide proof they are employing the most highly skilled, and highest paid individuals (thus having to pay them more and pushing the median wage up for all – including American workers). This will be done by getting rid of the lottery system that is used to award the visas.
So 80 percent receive less than the median wage, and only 10 percent receive the median wage. And so only 5 percent were categorized at the highest wage tier of the four wage tiers that are in place for the H1B guest worker visa. The result of that is that workers are often brought in well below market rates to replace American workers, again, sort of violating the principle of the program, which is supposed to be a means for bringing in skilled labor, and instead you’re bringing in a lot of times workers who are actually less skilled and lower paid than the workers that they’re replacing. (Senior White House Official at the Background Briefing about the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order)
This executive order is not a complete overhaul or repeal of the entire H-1B visa program as first stated by President Trump when he was a candidate, but a directive to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS – the department that issues the visas) to ensure that best practise is applied and American workers in these highly skilled fields are not being disadvantaged by companies seeking out cheaper foreign workers.
The H-2B visa (that President Trump uses to get low-cost, low-skilled seasonal workers for his Mar-a-Lago resort) is left unaffected by his latest executive order.
As it stands at the moment, this executive order does not affect the current intake of H-1B visa applicants that started on April 1st, nor does it provide specifics as it is currently an order to review how the visas have been used thus far – for more information about what H-1B visas are you can read Key Facts About H-1B Visas.
What are your thoughts about, or experiences of the H-1B visa program and the coming changes?