President Donald Trump is set to visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, and plans to sign an executive order to change a visa program that could affect tech jobs in America.
The order, titled “Buy American, Hire American,” will be signed at tool manufacturer Snap-on’s headquarters. It aims to alter “abuses” by the government’s H-1B visa program, which admits thousands of foreign-born workers into the U.S. annually, mainly to work in the tech industry.
“An abuse of the H-1B visa program is to bring in a worker not because you need their skills or talent, but for the purpose of undercutting the American worker,” unnamed senior officials said during a press briefing Monday.
Changes to the program would require both workers and their employers to prove that the H-IB visas are given to “the most highly skilled workers” in their particular field.
So what could this mean to tech companies — and U.S.-born workers looking for jobs within the tech industry?
“The effect would end up being exactly the opposite of what Trump wants. Companies would go offshore, like Microsoft did with Vancouver, Canada,” Robert D. Atkinson told The New York Times in January of a possible crackdown on the visa program. Atkinson is president of a research group that is sponsored by several tech companies.
According to the White House officials, Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” order will not happen overnight.
“President Trump has tasked the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, with reviewing all the agency findings and submitting a report to his desk within 220 days,” they said. “This report and its recommendations will serve as a blueprint for additional executive and regulatory actions to further strengthen 'Buy American,' as well as guide possible legislative proposals.”
The officials said that Trump’s executive order is “not a criticism” of a particular company, private business or “anybody’s practices,” but of Washington and “how they’ve been running this program.”
“It’s just a fact that people, probably in their heads, think most H-1B visas are going to these romanticized high-skilled firms that are pioneering the technology of the future — not contract workers,” they said. “This is an executive order embracing the optimism of a new way of doing business in D.C.”