President Donald Trump signed an executive order and for the part relating specifically to the hire American side, he called on the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to “propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse;” and to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” No new changes are being implemented immediately. The President’s executive order directs the federal bureaucracy to enforce visa law more vigorously, and to study new ways to reform and restrict the H-1B system. Nothing is being proposed that would impact or change the FY18 H-1B lottery that is currently underway. The proposed changes are forward-looking and non-specific. NASSCOM member companies support efforts to root out any abuses that may be occurring in the H-1B system. Ours is one of the most highly regulated and scrutinized sectors in the economy, and NASSCOM member companies abide by all applicable laws and regulations.
In general, we believe that the current campaign to discredit our sector is driven by persistent myths, such as the ideas that H-1B visa holders are “cheap labor” and “displace American workers” who train their replacements,” none of which is accurate. The fundamental issue is the shortage of highly-skilled domestic talent in the United States, in IT, healthcare, education, and other fields. The H-1B visa system exists specifically because of the persistent shortage of highly-skilled domestic talent in the United States. Regarding the various reforms that might be considered by the Trump administration and Congress, NASSCOM will be prepared to comment when there are specific proposals under consideration. Any onerous additional restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 visa systems would hurt thousands of U.S. businesses and their efforts to be more competitive by hindering access to needed talent.
Regarding the concept of reorienting the H-1B lottery to be a system that prioritizes the “most-skilled or highest-paid” visa applicants, the Administration needs to be careful about unintended consequences. Using salary levels as the metric is not necessarily the best indicator of benefits to the US economy; and unless such a system reflects variations in prevailing wages in all parts of the US, it could advantage certain regions such as Silicon Valley over other regions of the US. Using skill levels as the metric would put federal bureaucrats in the role of technology consultants and human resource specialists. There is simply too much variety and dynamism in the skill sets needed for such a system to work under the direction of federal bureaucrats. NASSCOM has no problem with measures aimed at protecting American workers, but such measures should be made applicable to ALL companies applying for short term high skilled visas including H-1B.