Big Missed Opportunity, but Don't Panic on H-1B - Yet

By John Miano, April 3, 2017

Today is the start of this year's H-1B season. Many groups that supported President Trump have been urging him to replace the purely random visa lottery with one that emphasizes wages and skills. A change in the lottery process could easily have been implemented before this year's H-1B season and it would have demonstrated that the president intends to take action on the H-1B cesspool.

It is not clear that President Trump will do anything about the allocation of H-1B visas this year. This is a great disappointment. This is an issue the president campaigned on. It is an issue he won on. Doing something about the H-1B lottery would have been an easy win for the president. And the press is already mocking the president over this failure.

But I am not panicking — yet.

I know there is a chorus out there saying that President Trump's failure to act here was a betrayal of his supporters.

But let me put things into perspective:

  • President Trump has been in office fewer than three months.

  • President Trump does not yet even control the agencies involved because of confirmation delays.

  • Much of what needs to be done requires regulation changes, a process that takes months.

  • H-1B wages are already so low that changing the lottery would only have had a small impact.

In fact, the worst scenario in my mind was that President Trump might change the H-1B lottery, proclaim victory, and not do anything substantial on H-1B.

With this deadline passed, we need to start talking about the next steps. The highest priority items in regulation should be to shorten the duration of H-1B from two three-year terms (a total of six years) to one two-year term with a one-year extension (a total of three years) and to rescind the Obama-era regulations designed to undermine protections for American workers. I have a long list of action items for the various agencies to take on H-1B and other guestworker programs.

I am calling the president's failure to do something before today "a BIG missed opportunity". However, I am going to give President Trump at least a year before I start questioning the commitment he made during the campaign to reform the H-1B cesspool.

Nonetheless, we need to hold the president's feet to the fire and let him know that we are watching.