Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order Targets H-1B Visa Program

Echoing the “America First” theme he hammered during the election, President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday directing the federal government to review and reform the H-1B visa program in order to prioritize American companies and workers.

Key Points

The order, framed as a “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, instructs the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, and State to undertake a comprehensive study of the H-1B’s “impact on domestic jobs and manufacturing,” and thereafter devise policy proposals that serve to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States,” “protect their economic interests,” and ultimately end the “theft of American prosperity.”

Lacking on specifics, the executive order broadly speaks of preventing “fraud and abuse” in the immigration system. The most detailed textual reference to potential changes in the H-1B category involves who the recipients of these nonimmigrant visas are, as the order cites a need to “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid” alien workers.

Subsequent to the executive order’s signing, in a background briefing with reporters, administration officials clarified the scope of prospective changes. Among the more specific reform measures the officials described are prioritizing H-1B applicants with advanced degrees and higher wages – perhaps altogether dispensing with the computer-generated lottery that awards these visas randomly every year – and increasing the cost of filing H-1B petitions.

The order additionally directs the Department of Commerce and U.S. trade representative to evaluate existing free trade agreements to ensure “fair and reciprocal” government procurement processes in international markets.

Our Thoughts

No immediate changes are enumerated in the executive order, and given that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced this week that it has already completed the H-1B lottery for fiscal year 2018, allocation of H-1B visas this year will not be impacted. 

The same cannot be said for future H-1B applications, however, unless and until the multiagency review called for in the executive order is completed. If the reform measures alluded to are implemented, the changes would arguably redound to the benefit of large technology companies like Microsoft and Amazon, which frequently employ H-1B workers who both have advanced degrees and demand higher wages.

Our experienced immigration attorneys will continue to monitor this and other executive actions that may affect the H-1B visa program. Over the past two decades, our firm has successfully represented employers and foreign nationals alike through the complicated processes of petitioning for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. We understand how important the H-1B is to a diverse cohort of industries and foreign nationals. If you are interested in a case evaluation at no charge, we invite you to click here and start a conversation with us.

As more information becomes available, updates will be published on our news section. 

Former U.S. Consular officer, Attorney Sechyi Laiu joined Zhang & Associates, P.C. on June 26, 2017

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu specializes on Consular Processing cases and business development. Attorney Laiu also focuses on TN visas, E visas, CBP administrative proceedings (monetary confiscation, deferred inspection), and overseas financial compliance.

Prior to joining Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu worked for the U.S. Department of State as a Chinese and Portuguese speaking diplomat. As a consular-coned officer who served in Vancouver (Canada), Shenyang (P.R. China), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Attorney Laiu processed over 30,000 visa cases and worked in every section of Consular Affairs overseas (Fraud Prevention Unit, Immigrant Visas, Non-Immigrant Visas, and American Citizen Services).

He will use his experience and expertise to deliver the highest quality of service to our clients.

Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients nationwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled thousands of immigration cases.

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high-quality immigration and non-immigration visa services. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, PERM, and I-485 cases. In the past twenty years, we have successfully helped thousands of clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang ( for a free evaluation.

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