Tighter restrictions on skilled worker visas to the U.S. could come via both executive action by President Donald Trump and via Congressional moves, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday.
Indian IT services firms are already girding for possible changes to the H-1B program, which they use to send tens of thousands of workers to the U.S. annually.
While a significant shakeup of the visa program would likely need to be approved by Congress, President Trump could use an executive directive to take steps like ending a provision announced in 2014 that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the U.S, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
President Trump on Friday issued a controversial executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, which immediately resulted in the detention of passengers at U.S. airports.
Asked at a press briefing Monday whether he expected an executive order on skilled worker visas anytime soon, Mr. Spicer said “With respect to H-1Bs and other visas, it’s part of a larger immigration reform effort that the president will continue to talk about through executive order and through working with Congress.”
There has already been “a lot of action on immigration,” he said, and “whether it’s that or the spousal visas or other types of visas I think there’s an overall need to look at all these programs.”
“You’ll see both through executive action and through comprehensive legislative measures a way to address immigration as a whole and the visa program,” Mr. Spicer said.
While executive action could take place immediately upon its issuance, Congressional action would likely take longer, analysts say, since any bill would need to be passed by Congress and signed by President Trump.
Policymakers from both sides of the aisle have stepped up their efforts to introduce legsilation following Mr. Trump’s campaign, in which he pledged to protect American workers.
Earlier this month two prominent senators, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley and Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin, said they planned to re-introduce a bill from 2007 that would demand employers trying to hire workers on H-1B visas to make a “good faith effort” to hire Americans first.
That came after Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the highest-profile Republicans in Congress, said he would reintroduce a bill to restrict H-1Bs.
And last week Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Calif. Democrat, said she was introducing a new bill designed to make it harder for firms to use less expensive workers on H-1B visas.
For breaking news, features and analysis from India, follow WSJ India on Facebook.