President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order to review a temporary visa program used to place foreign workers in high-skilled US jobs.
The order directs agencies to enforce government rules on excluding foreign contractors from bids for government projects.
President Trump signed the so-called Buy American, Hire American order on a visit to a tool factory in the Wisconsin.
The order is aimed at fulfilling his “America First” campaign promises.
However, it falls way short of Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to end the H-1B visa program.
“With this action we are sending a powerful signal to the world that were going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first,” Donald Trump said at the Snap-On Inc headquarters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Melania Trump used an H-1B visa in her early days as a model in New York.
The administration’s goal is to ensure such visas are given to the most qualified or highest-paid applicant, according to two senior officials.
The four departments will then submit their findings to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and release a report in 220 days.
In 2016, Disney was accused of taking advantage of the H-1B visa scheme to lay off American technology workers, who were forced to train their foreign replacements.
The government allows 85,000 immigrants each year through the H-1B visa program, which is reserved for foreign nationals in “specialty occupations” and is largely used by the technology industry.
The US government uses a lottery system to grant 65,000 visas every year and randomly distributes an additional 20,000 to graduate students.
In recent years, the US has been overwhelmed by applications for the program.
However, the number of applicants fell to 199,000 in 2017, down from 236,000 in 2016, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
A senior Trump administration official argued on April 17 that the H-1B visas are supposed to be awarded to highly qualified workers, but often bring in less skilled employees who earn lower wages than those they are meant to replace.
Under the new order, the H-1B visa would no longer serve as a cheap way for companies to replace US workers, the official added.
Tech companies contend the program is used to recruit top talent, but some of the H-1B visas are also used for outsourcing firms. Critics say these undercut unemployed Americans and fill lower-level information technology jobs.
Indian nationals are the largest group of recipients of the H-1B visas issued each year.
In 2016, more than 15% of Facebook’s US employees used a temporary work visa, according to a Reuters analysis of US Labor Department filings.
The executive order will also focus on reviewing waivers in free-trade agreements and whether they allow foreign companies to undermine American companies in the global government procurement market.