back to article Trump signs exec order signaling foreign H-1B visa techie crackdown

President Trump today signed an executive order that may lead to an overhaul of the H-1B visa system used by US technology giants to draft in cheap foreigner workers. The exact text of the order has yet to be published on the White House website. So far, all we have are comments from administration officials and the commander …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If he slammed the lottery

    I wonder if he is going to change the way they award them to simply go to the top 65,000 applications ranked by pay? I think he'd be able to do that without congress. Changing the number awarded or specifying a new lower bound wage other than $60K/yr isn't something he can do via executive order, but would require congress.

    You'd think raising the wage would be an easy vote on both sides of the aisle, but the corporate lobby wants H1B wages as low as possible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If he slammed the lottery

      > I wonder if he is going to change the way they award them to simply go to the top 65,000 applications ranked by pay?

      That might freeze out some academics

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: If he slammed the lottery

        That might freeze out some academics

        Either that or make their pay adequate. The foreign postdoc/assistant prof is treated like a modern slave in both USA and UK and paid accordingly. You can earn more in Pret or Starbucks than the pay for one of the lab bench jobs which require an MSc if not a PhD.

        1. TrumpSlurp the Troll

          Re: If he slammed the lottery

          The modern day slavery of short term contracts is not limited to non UK born post Doctoral academics.

        2. Swarthy

          Re: If he slammed the lottery

          That might freeze out some academics
          Perhaps the better route would be to prioritize applications based on the ratio of H1B price to local market, with priority going to higher numbers (in cases where the local market doesn't exist the ratio would be infinite, which is a damn high number).

    2. scarletherring

      Re: If he slammed the lottery

      "You'd think raising the wage would be an easy vote on both sides of the aisle, but the corporate lobby wants H1B wages as low as possible."

      Which makes it an impossible vote on both sides of the aisle. Neither party represents the people these days, they're only listening to donors. There's an interesting Princeton study that found essentially that the US is no longer a functioning democracy:

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If he slammed the lottery

      It might be a split decision by the corporate lobby. The Googles, facebooks, etc of the world would benefit from a higher wage and prioritizing based on wage. They already pay H1-Bs at the proposed increase levels and those people tend of be highly skilled. The people who would get crushed would be Tata, Infosys, Cognizant, parts of IBM, etc who are in the offshore outsourcing business. The Indian IT outsourcing providers claim that they will just move the jobs to Indian if they get the H1-Bs cut, completely offshore them.... but I doubt it. If they could do that, they already would have done that. There must be a need or a customer requirement for these people to be on-site... or they need to skill transfer in the US prior to moving the jobs to India.

      Definitely a good move. The H1-B is getting abused crazily by the outsourcing firms.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        or they need to skill transfer in the US prior to moving the jobs to India.

        I worked for IBM between 2005 and 2010 and the skill transfer for a reasonably medium-to-high skilled sysadmin took at most 2 months, one of them of shadowing. I don't think H1Bs are or were used for that kind of work (and skill sets).

  2. Mark 85

    (Many of Donald's products are not made in the USA.)

    Well... I guess this is leading by telling to "do as I say, not as I do".

    1. ps2os2

      Donald's Products

      We know his ties are made in a foreign country, there are several other of his products as well. What is his wife going to handle it? If he is true to form he won't. He has contradicted himself so many times you can't figure out when he is telling the truth(even then its up to interpertation).

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      "do as I say, not as I do".

      Easily proven by his recent tweet history against a year or more ago.

      I don't know if there's a corollary or law named after the phenomenon yet.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Auction off H1-Bs??

    Another way to solve the current issues.

    You want H1-Bs for your commercially-related reasons? Let us know how much you are willing to pay for how many, and the 65,000 applications where employers are willing to pay the most for the visa are the ones that get chosen.

    My preferred way would be to raise the floor wage to $90K-$120K/year, but that may result in employers expecting H1-B recipients to work even more hours. So if the increase in the wage floor is not palatable, then an auction that gets the most revenue for the government and causes employers to prioritize applications/positions by cost sounds good to me.

  4. Blank Reg

    There's plenty of abuse of the visa system, and they should definitely raise the minimum salary, but I think Trump's action regarding visas and immigration will only lead to more hiring outside the US. Most of the big tech companies have development centers around the world where they can hire more staff if the government makes it too difficult to bring people to the US.

  5. veti Silver badge

    Grandstanding on both sides

    Chuck Schumer makes a fool of himself again. Of course it's going to create some jobs. Now that they're commissioned, someone is going to have to research and write the reports. That's probably, like, 100 employee-years' worth of work at the Dept of Labor.

    Trump could shortcut the whole process by simply abolishing the H1B program entirely. Of course he's not going to do that, because it would interfere with the ability and/or willingness of people to give him money. But that's what he promised.

    1. ps2os2

      Re: Grandstanding on both sides

      He won't be able to do away with them as he uses them in his hotels and his Florida golf course.

  6. big_D Silver badge

    Silicon Valley

    I thought the problem in Silicon Valley was that the wages were too high already, given the housing problems in San Francisco. If the current state of affairs in the Valley are due to supressed salaries, I hate to think what it would be like without "slave labour"

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: Silicon Valley

      Which is part of the problem I don't get as most of those jobs could easily be done by someone telecommuting from Abilene, Kansas where you can get a rather large spread for slightly less than a condo in Frisco and save the $4k+ in monthly fees.

    2. Swarthy

      Re: Silicon Valley

      It's less about the pay and more about the "intimidated into working longer hours" without billing the time.

    3. j2f8j8j2fj

      Re: Silicon Valley

      There's a ludicrously large wage gap in SV. You have a handful of developers working for facebook making $200k+/yr and then a bunch of people elsewhere making $80k/yr or less. The H1B employees aren't the ones making 6 figures (but they are the most numerous).

  7. Blotto Silver badge

    "But the vast majority of visa holders are no more skilled than US workers and are being hired solely because they will work harder for less."

    These people need to work smarter not harder. That's the problem with outsourcing when you have no clue on what it takes for the work to actually get done.

    The outsourcers will just up their charges if H1-B gets more expensive. No one will bother to higher local instead because the confirmed story/perception is that there is no local talent.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know it's from Trump, but any move that might reduce the amount of low quality Indian coding in our software has got to be welcomed. Software quality gets worse and worse, and I reckon it's entirely due to highly paid remote middle management hiring the cheapest coders they can get away with.

    Look th the quality drop in iOS and OS-X in recent releases. I won't mention Microsoft - their software's always been crap. Contrast with Linux, where only properly skilled coders get to contribute.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "Contrast with Linux, where only properly skilled coders get to contribute."
      ROFLMAO! Needed to compile a video for a friend. First Linux proggy took nearly half an hour and didn't want to burn the DVD. Second Linux proggy took the same amount of time, but did burn the DVD. Nero's proggy running on Win7 took less than a minute of my time because drag 'n' drop.

      1. GrapeBunch

        Needed to compile a video for a friend. First Linux proggy took nearly half an hour and didn't want to burn the DVD. Second Linux proggy took the same amount of time, but did burn the DVD. Nero's proggy running on Win7 took less than a minute of my time because drag 'n' drop.

        The same job would have taken only seconds longer on an old Win2K or XP machine (suitably isolated from the Internet) with earlier versions of the same legacy software. A good reason to keep one old computer on the shelf. You might have had to transfer the material on a CF card on a carrier in a PCMCIA slot, rather than a USB stick. And your burn device might have been connected by Firewire.

        Since in 2017, few would want DVD authoring software cluttering up their work machine.

        I've noticed that whenever I say anything neutral or nice in relation to an old version of Windows, I collect El Reg downvotes. So go ahead, Mike Foxtrotters, downvote me to Hell.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          "I've noticed that whenever I say anything neutral or nice in relation to an old version of Windows, I collect El Reg downvotes."

          Right. And instead you've got two upvotes at the moment. One from a guy who has a serviceable NT4 machine with Nero 5.5. That other one has to make his/her own confessions.

      2. j2f8j8j2fj

        Unfortunately very few Linux developers care about multimedia. Aside from building render farms you're SOL on that front unless you're ready to start building multimedia editing applications yourself.

    2. GrapeBunch

      Cheap code

      I used to write a column (not about tech) in a Canadian newspaper. For decades, the deadline was Wednesday for a Saturday column, which was fine, especially pre-Internet, but even afterwards because the subject was not particularly time-sensitive. But the newspaper cut costs by offshoring the typesetting of those particular newspaper pages to USA. So the deadline became earlier. And kept on getting earlier until it was 2 weeks before the original deadline. In other words, 17 days in advance. My theory at the time was that the USA company had in turn offshored this work to India. Not that Indian words such as "crore" started creeping into the column. It was a question of low wages combined with fluency in English that led me to that guess. "Indira, you're not working hard enough. Improve your productivity or I will offshore this work to Bangladesh, where they really know the value of their paycheque." Anyway, you can push the envelope in a "news" paper, but not engage in a race to the bottom. Eventually, the Canadian newspaper dropped the column, ostensibly because they were retooling the paper to a new demographic, but probably because fewer people were reading the stale material therein.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First world problem

    Americans are first world citizen and hence work for job satisfaction. Indians are third world citizens and hence work for money. A CS grad from USA is truly interested in computer-science problems, and would like to work only on cutting edge technology or do research. A CS grad from India did CS because he wants money, so, he will be ready to work on implementing already-solved problems, repetitive work, or in any of the not-so-cutting-edge-technology. So, even if given decent salary, a CS grad from USA wouldn't do the job that an Indian CS-grad would do. So, whatever visa changes you do, is only going to be counter productive to USA.

    1. GrapeBunch

      Re: First world problem

      I upvoted you, AC, though many didn't. Years ago, I read an essay by the astronomer, Fred Hoyle. When asked what should a young astronomer do to keep his game sharp (rather than chat in the coffee room), Hoyle recommended calculating (using pencil and paper) some planetary orbits, using the Laws of Gravity formulated by Isaac Newton (1643-1727). OTOH, it makes sense that they would not want to be doing this all day, every day. Same goes for offshore astronomers.

    2. j2f8j8j2fj

      Re: First world problem

      The repetitive parts of IT are the entry level jobs. Without those jobs you end up with a catch-22. (Need experience to get the job but need the job to get experience)

      On top of that, many of the jobs being outsourced are developer positions. Development jobs would traditionally be the top end of the technical side of IT, something you had worked your way into. By that point you knew how everything worked on a lower level and were better equipped to build on it. Sure there are tedious tasks such as code maintenance but ideally you would build tools to automate much of it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about non-IT companies ?

    Almost every US based engineering, services and even equipment supplier to the chemical, petrochemical and oil industry I know of farms the low end stuff like 3d drawing, acad drawing, and even some lower level engineering out to large outfits in India, and promtly bill the hours to their customers at local rates. It is a great source of income to them. Even if they have to have the work re-done 4 times it's still not half as expensive as having it done locally.

    And I can't imagine it being any different in their US operations.

    But those are probably outfits run by The Orange man's (c) friends.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about non-IT companies ?

      I might be slightly out of the loop - is "The Troompaloompa" a widely used euphemism for that guy yet? If not, why not...?

  11. Pompous Git Silver badge

    "unlike me, grins US president"


  12. Anonymous Blowhard

    "We don't have a level playing field for our workers, but you're going to have one very soon"

    How's that? Are millions of Americans suddenly going to become better educated? Or is he planning to give Indian and Asian technology experts brain damage in some way?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What Trump and supporters deserve..

    .. is the actual implementation of all this nonsense.

    The problem is that that will cause harm to others, but if there was a way to prevent that it would be quite funny to see them run their own place (no house staff), build their own walls (no labourers) and mainly live on tinned food (nobody tending the fields).

    They really have no clue how the world works, nor do their redneck supporters.

    Maybe a wall is indeed in order, but a cheaper one. Around Mar-a-Lago.

  14. Hollerithevo


    I am glad the article mentions H-2B workers, which do supply Trump resorts and hotels with workers from eastern Europe and South America. Other hotels and public venue businesses rely on cheap H-2B labour, and this level of work is what is really sought by Americans who haven't got an education that qualifies them for a lot of jobs. Those Trump supporters who want to close the borders to foreign workers are not, mostly, looking to be coders and sysadmins but janitors, waitresses, pool-boys, kitchen staff and hotel cleaning maids. They turn up for a job and there's a Romanian doing the job for less, on an H-2B visa.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: H-2B

      Apparently, not many Americans are turning up for that work at those sorts of exploitative salaries which is the whole problem. Nobody wants to go through the red tape and overhead to drag people in from abroad if they can find a local who does it just as cheap.

      Good luck finding Americans prepared to work in harvesting, for instance.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Citizens First

    Private business models that require no taxes, no environmental or human right laws and huge government subsidies to be profitable should not exist. The purpose of business and industry is to benefit the Nation, the Citizens, not an international elite who cares nothing for Nations or their people.

    If a company cannot train and hire locals they need to revisit their business model to include better education and better pay. Bringing in workers to reduce the education opportunities of the locals, to lower pay, lower working standards and conditions all to increase profits to be sent out of country should be illegal and treated as treasonous when suggested.

    OTOH bringing in highly educated people who create jobs and train citizens to replace them is important and was the stated objective of Foreign Worker Programs. Of course if such programs had been used for that we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    Even the idea that foreign workers do work locals do not want to do is obvious propaganda. A business needs to fit into the local conditions, if it needs to import slaves it has no place in the country and can only hurt citizens who then must accept lower pay.

    Business that needs endless government subsidies, either directly or with laws protecting their cartel have also undermined the market and worked against the interest of citizens.

    Canada's many protected cartels, including basics like milk and automobiles that concentrate Canada's production in two provinces do much damage to Canada. These cartels are an example of business buying government protection at the expense of democracy, the Nation's interests and that of Citizens. Canada has no domestic automobile industry to protect. Canadians get jobs from being allowed to assemble vehicles for multi-national companies and in exchange protect those companies from competition, prevent Canadians from importing vehicles and add thousands to the cost of every vehicle. It would be far cheaper to pay those workers to go to school or volunteer but that wouldn't so easily transfer Canada's wealth to other tax havens, so isn't considered.

    Trump exists because people can feel their governments are not acting in their interests, your government is not acting in your interest. People are beginning to lash out in anyway possible, look in the most unlikely of places for hope, even a billionaire who honestly believes the rich work harder and are more worthy. IME only the most desperate believe Trump will make America great, just as only the most deluded thought Obama would reverse the trends already set in place.

    What will American voters do when they learn that no Democrat or Republican President can save them from their fate?

  16. EnviableOne

    Trumpty Trump Trump Trump Trump

    He does love to promote himself

    Yet another piece of stagemanaged propaganda, that, to all intents and purposes, does absoloutly nothing.

    despite his retoric, has Trump actually succeded at anything other than controversially becomming president?

    Hes been bankrupt at least 6 times, he has had more court cases than most people have hot dinners, he refuses advice from people cleary better informed than himself, and his fortune would have been bigger if he had put his small (million dollar) start-up fund from his father in a bank.

    needs a sheep icon, as he is always pulling the wool

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