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Trump to take first step toward restricting H-1B visas, widely used by tech industry

President Trump on Tuesday will take what the White House is calling a “transitional step” toward a revamped immigration system, ordering a review of a visa program meant to attract skilled immigrant labor that administration officials say has been abused to the detriment of American workers.

An executive order Trump is scheduled to sign during a visit to a Wisconsin manufacturer will direct federal agencies to review the H-1B visa program, which is widely used by the tech industry to bring workers in from other countries.

The White House argues that the program has been “abused to the point of being rendered … inoperative,” as an official told reporters Monday, bringing in workers for positions where they earn less than the industry average paid to American workers. That's a criticism that has also been widely made by outside analysts.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters Monday on the condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s event, said the goal of the review would be to shift the process for awarding H1-B visas to put a priority on higher-skilled and higher-paid workers, making it more difficult to use it to replace American workers.

Trump's plan, which also directs a separate review of government purchasing requirements, is consistent with the “Buy American, Hire American” credo that was a staple of his campaign, featured prominently in his inaugural address and outlined in his address to Congress in February.

“This is a transitional step to get toward a more skills-based and merit-based immigration system,” the official said.

The executive order is the latest in a series of steps the administration has already taken on H-1B visas. Under guidance issued earlier this month by the Department of Homeland Security, companies seeking to sponsor computer programmers for a guest visa would need to take additional steps to verify the tasks performed qualify as a “specialty occupation.”

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