President Trump Signs “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order Affecting H-1Bs


President Trump today signed an executive order entitled “Buy American and Hire American” which, in part, instructs four federal agencies (Homeland Security, Justice, Labor and State) to propose new rules and guidance aimed at protecting the interests of United States workers through “prevention of fraud and abuse” in the immigration system. The order additionally instructs the same agencies to suggest reforms to the H-1B program that ensure H-1Bs are awarded to the “most-skilled or highest paid” petition beneficiaries.

Yesterday, a senior administration official made remarks in a White House briefing on the order. In those remarks, the official hinted that the following could be coming for H-1Bs:

  • Increased fees for H-1B visas.  

  • An adjusted wage scale for, the in the words of the official, “a more honest reflection of what the prevailing wages actually are in these fields.”  

  • The Department of Justice could “enforce gross and egregious violations of the H-1B program.” 

  • After the administration gets a full legal analysis and review from the departments, the administration anticipates it could adjust the lottery system to give master's degree holders a better chance of getting H-1Bs relative to bachelor's degree holders. 

Nothing in the order is expected to affect this year’s lottery. Instead, it will ask for administrative solutions moving forward, and the administration acknowledges that some H-1B reforms will require legislative action.

While the order does not go into detail in the same way the previously leaked draft version of a foreign workers executive order did, it does include leeway for broad review of all visa programs. Unlike that draft order, only H-1B visas were specifically mentioned by name. However, none of the actions in the original draft specifically required an executive order to initiate, so the lack of inclusion of anything from that draft order should not be interpreted as an indication that they will not happen or do not remain administration priorities.

CFGI will provide more analysis as we learn more and will continue to advocate for an employment-based immigration system that is fair, innovative and competitive. For more information and updates, please tune into our webinar next week and come to our Symposium in June.