President Donald Trump’s latest executive order focuses on the way the federal government gives visas to highly trained foreign workers. It’s part of the administration’s “buy American, hire American” efforts, and it could have a pretty significant impact on Texas.
H-1B visas are used primarily by technology companies to bring workers with highly specialized skills to the United States. Texas ranks second only to California in the number of H-1B visa applications, and the employers requesting the visas mirror national trends.
Universities also use H-1B visas to hire workers, but they aren’t subject to the same cap and it’s easier for them to get visas each year.
Trump’s executive order directs federal agencies to crack down on fraud and abuse of the program and generate more reports on it, Repko says.
“On paper, the order doesn’t change the process much,” she says. “The lottery will go on as usual. But [the order] calls for stepped-up enforcement and that could mean things like doing more random visits of employers, or audits of employers who have a high percentage of H-1B visa holders.”
The number of applications coming in has gone down this year, Repko says, but is still higher than the 85,000 cap on how many visas are issued. That still means there will be a lot of people who don’t win the lottery to receive one.
“Definitely companies are uncertain about what the program may look like in the future,” Repko says. “They may be responding differently and applying in a different way than they have in the past.”
In light of the executive order, employers are maintaining that they want to hire American talent, but they’re not finding people with the skillsets they need.
“In particular, they say there’s a shortage of science, technology, engineering and math talent in the U.S. – especially with higher degrees like Masters and PhD.s. So they’ve said before and they said again after [Tuesday’s] executive order that they’re doubling-down on training and they’re trying to find American talent, but not having enough luck.”
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.