In 2015, 233,000 people applied for the H-1B Visa. This number is almost twice what it was just two years ago, it is up roughly 60,000 from 2014. The H-1B Visa is specifically for highly skilled foreign workers, particularly those workers in the technology sector. Science, technology, and math positions are frequently filled by H-1B Visa holders. Currently, there are only 85,000 H-1B Visas available each year, and 20,000 of those are reserved for individuals holding advanced degrees.
Professionals from other countries use the H-1B Visa to temporarily live and work in the United States. Their employer will actually apply for the Visa on their employee’s behalf. The employees are then permitted to bring their spouse and children as well. Children must be under the age of 21. In addition, the professional’s spouse automatically receives a work visa once the professional is granted the H-1B Visa.
The H-1B Visa is a hot topic in the 2016 presidential race. The real debate is whether the cap will be increased with an incoming president. Each candidate has expressed their own unique views on the issue.
The I-Squared Bill and Increasing the Cap
There are talks of increasing the number of allowable H-1B Visas, and the I-Squared Act (Immigration Innovation Act of 2015), may be the main vehicle for this increase. This proposed bill would increase the number of Visas to 195,000 each year. This number still will not allow all of the applicants, but the increase would bring significantly more skilled workers into the United States.
Other options for increasing the number of Visa also include the Startup Visa. The Startup Visa is a plan that would increase the number of Visas available by transferring the Visa-holders already in the United States into another pool of Visas. Even specific states have developed ways to get around H-1B Visas, including Massachusetts and Colorado, to increase the number of foreign skilled workers that can work within their borders.
Technology companies like IBM and Facebook support the increase of the cap. They argue that they are having a hard time finding skilled workers in the United States to fill their technology-focused openings. The H-1B Visa system allows them to fill the voids in their workforce, something that they find extremely valuable.
Hillary Clinton’s Stance on Increasing the H-1B Cap
Hillary Clinton, one of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, supports increasing the cap on H-1B Visas. She argues that foreign skilled workers contribute a great deal to the American economy, and increasing the cap will help push technological development forward in the United States.
Clinton has been somewhat cautious about her stance, however. While representing the Obama administration, she expressed the need to balance being able to employ American workers with the need to have a good flow of trade and services between countries. She made this comment while speaking in India, one of the major countries that benefits from H-1B Visas.
In Bill Clinton’s administration in the late 1990s, former president Clinton received the same pressure from technology companies to increase the cap, but he was skeptical about whether these companies were really having that much trouble finding skilled workers within the United States. He wanted to impose some sort of limitation that required the employer to look for American workers first, but the limitation did not gain any meaningful ground in Congress. It is unclear whether Hillary Clinton would have taken part in any of those discussions as First Lady at the time, but it is definitely possible.
As a candidate, Clinton has been a little more straight-forward about her feelings on raising the cap. She does support the cap increase, and it is worth noting that the two prior increases were during then-President Bill Clinton’s administration, despite his skepticism.
Arguments Against Increasing the H-1B Visa Cap
Other candidates oppose increasing the cap because they argue that large companies are taking advantage of the program to employ skilled workers at a lower wage than what they would offer United States citizens. Although part of the requirements of the Visa is that employers show that the wage offered to the H1-B Visa employee are comparable to what a citizen would make, statistics indicate that this does not always happen.
In fact, one study indicated that some of these workers make up to 40 percent less than their American counterparts. It is unclear whether Clinton has a plan to address these concerns at this point, but she may suggest some limitations to the cap, as Bill Clinton did, as the presidential race progresses.
Contact KPPB Law For Professional Legal Assistance
To learn more about U.S. visas and the immigration process, and to take advantage of our array of immigration services, please contact an H1B visa attorney or call directly at (703) 594-4040 today.