US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order directing federal agencies to recommend changes to a temporary visa programme on Tuesday which is used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skill jobs.
The order is an attempt by Trump to carry out his "America First" campaign that pledges to reform US immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products.
Its "original intent [was] awarding visas to the most skilled and highest paid applicants – crucially, at such time as these reforms are eventually implemented, it will prevent the program from being used to displace American workers," a White House official said.
H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in "speciality" occupations that generally require higher education, which according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The government uses a lottery to award 65,000 visas every year and distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.
Companies say they use visas to recruit top talent. More than 15 percent of Facebook Inc's US employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa, according to a Reuters analysis of US Labour Department filings.
The number of applications for H-1B visas fell to 199,000 this year from 236,000 in 2016, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services.