(MARCH 21): President Donald Trump and Congress have said they want to overhaul policies that allow companies to bring employees from overseas to the US But the application deadline for the most controversial visa program is the first week of April, which means new rules have to be in place for that batch of applicants or another year's worth of visas will be handed out under the existing guidelines. The current H-1B visa program has been criticized for hurting American workers and undercutting salaries.

H-1B visas were created about three decades ago to help companies bring in skilled workers from other countries when they couldn't find Americans to fill those jobs. But the program has morphed greatly from its original intent.

Americans are losing their jobs to foreign visa holders, who tend to be paid substantially less. Most of the visas don't even go to American companies, but rather overseas firms that use the program to build up operations in the US India would have the most at stake in any reform.

“I think everyone agrees the system is broken,” says Neil Ruiz, an immigration expert at the Pew Research Center and former executive director of George Washington University’s Center for Law, Economics and Finance. 

One reason is the rise of the outsourcing industry, a nascent business 30 years ago. Outsourcers, like India's Wipro Ltd. and Cognizant Technology Solutions of the US, take over and manage the technology systems for corporations in the US, Europe and Asia.

In the US, outsourcers bring staffers into the country on work visas, train them in the tech departments of leading corporations and then rotate them back to India where pay and living costs are lower. Outsourcing companies now get far more visas than traditional technology companies, according to data collected by Howard University's Ron Hira through Freedom of Information Act requests. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. received 5,650 H-1Bs in 2014 while Amazon, the largest recipient in the latter group, got 877.

Most of the companies applying for the visas are seeking to fill technology jobs. The most frequently requested positions are computer system analysts and software developers.

The business model has been a success for outsourcers and their corporate customers. But workers suffer. American employees lose jobs as their employers opt to hand over tech departments to outsourcing companies. Outsourcing companies tend to pay H-1B workers US$65,000 ($90,811) to US$75,000 a year, far less than the US$100,000 or more at Google and Microsoft.

Bruce Morrison, a former Democratic Congressman who helped write the original H-1B law, says the goal of capping the number of visas was to limit the number of workers who came to the US for temporary positions. Instead, employers would be encouraged to hire permanent employees, on what are known as green cards, so they could become US citizens.

"Our motto was 'Green cards, not guest workers'," says Morrison by telephone from Maryland, where he works as a lobbyist for labor groups.

But outsourcing companies, whose business model is built on rotating employees between India and the US, rarely help their workers get green cards, according to data Hira compiled.