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Trump signs executive order reviewing H-1B visa program

Donald Trump And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Hold Joint News Conf. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump today signed an executive order directing the government to review its polices on the H-1B visa program, as the administration says it looks to cut down on abuse in the system designed for high-skilled workers.

Nearly 200,000 applications were recently sent in for this year’s 85,000 spots in the popular program, meant to bring skilled workers from overseas to the United States. But despite a push from Silicon Valley-aligned groups, the program has been controversial, with critics arguing that the system is rife with abuse, as it allows companies to unnecessarily import cheap labor instead of hiring within the country. Proponents counter that it is a necessary way to fill tech jobs that are crucial to the American economy.

Under the order, which Trump signed during a trip to Wisconsin, agencies involved with the program will be tasked with reviewing how visas are granted, although it’s unclear what changes would be implemented after the review. Recommendations on changes will be left to the agencies involved in the program.

“We’re basically saying to these agencies, tell us everything you think you can do,” an administration official said yesterday. “And some of that will be administrative, and some if they’ll say will have to be done legislatively.” The administration says it will attempt to change the current “lottery” system for applications to one that prioritizes higher-wage workers.

Trump has already signaled hostility toward the H-1B system, and earlier this month, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it would increase scrutiny of the program through expanded “site visits” to employers using H-1B visas. “[T]oo many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged,” the agency said in a statement.