President Donald Trump ordered reforms yesterday to the H-1B visa program used for bringing in highly skilled temporary foreign workers such as IT specialists.

Meanwhile, US Citizenship and Immigration Services reported yesterday the number of petitions for H-1B visas fell this year to 199,000, a drop from the 236,000 received last year and the 233,000 received in 2015. Despite the drop, the number of petitions this year still exceeded the annual cap on available visas within the first week petitions were accepted.

Given the uncertainty over the fate of the program under Trump and the strong economy, some expected a surge in applications this year. But, instead, this year’s numbers are “surprisingly low,” William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “A lot of people are looking at America, and (wondering) if it is still a place to make business.”

The US caps the number of available H-1B visas at 65,000 per year plus another 20,000 for workers with advanced degrees. Because the cap was reached within the first week this year, the USCIS stopped accepting petitions and used a lottery to determine who would receive an H-1B.

The executive order calls for strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the US of labor from abroad, according to a White House briefing. It calls for the Department of Homeland Security to review the way H-1Bs are rewarded and to submit a list of administrative and legislative reforms to curb abuse in the H-1B system. Administrative changes could include increasing fees for H1B visas.

The order follows an announcement last month by US Citizenship and Immigration Services that it would take a more targeted approach when doing site visits on three types of firms: companies with a high ratio of H-1B workers; those where the USCIS cannot validate basic business information; and “employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location,” which includes staffing firms.


The Washington Post reports Australia will abolish and replace its contentious “457” skilled-worker visa program. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposes replacing the 457 visa with visas that are more temporary and would require higher language and professional skills. Further, the number of occupations that would qualify for such visas would drop as well. Read more from The Washington Post.