ke engineering, science, math or architecture, to name a few. Several Congressional legislators are attesting the program has unfairly denied Americans jobs at home, and has gaping loopholes that must be closed. As lawmakers push forward bills such as the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016 and H.R. 5801, the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, foreigners applying for H-1B visas should recognize the potential implications this might have for their futures in the United States.
What are H-1B visas?
There are five general requirements for the H-1B visa program: (1) the applicant must have a qualifying relationship with the employer who will petition on his/her behalf, (2) the position the applicant plans to fill must qualify as a specialty occupation, (3) the specialty occupation must relate to the applicant’s field of study, (4) the applicant must be paid the prevailing or actual wage of the occupation (based on Department of Labor standards), (5) an H1-B visa slot must be available at the time of application (the annual cap is 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year).
H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016
Despite the requirements and limitations on the program detailed above, some legislators are arguing it’s simply not enough to prevent abuse — and they say the program is hurting employable Americans domestically.
A bipartisan bill introduced by Rep Bill Pascrell, Jr (D-N.J.) and Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) seeks to close loopholes that permit employers to hire foreigners for jobs that could be filled by skilled American workers.
“America is producing many skilled, high-tech professionals with advanced degrees and no jobs. By ‘in-sourcing’ and exploiting foreign workers, some businesses are abusing the visa programs and undercutting our workforce to reap the rewards,” according to Pascrell.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016 requires employers to, among other things, make a good-faith effort to hire American workers before recruiting foreigners. The legislation also prohibits employers them from replacing American workers with visa holders. Moreover, it bars companies from hiring additional visa holders if the entity employs more than 50 workers and more than 50% of employees have H-1B or L-1 visas.
In addition to this, the bill grants more power to federal agencies to investigate fraud and abuse claims within these programs, modifies wage requirements and gives visa holders a list of rights before they enter the country, so they can guard against underpayment.
Protect and Grow American Jobs Act
Another pair of bipartisan lawmakers have unveiled legislation that tightens rules on the H-1B program; Reps Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) introduced the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, which they say “closes a major loophole in our high skilled immigration system.”
Issa says, “We need strong systems in place to prevent abuse and protect jobs for American workers. This commonsense fix updates our high-skilled visas to reduce abuse of the system and ensure a level playing field for American workers.”
These lawmakers are making the case that exemptions that have allowed employers to hire additional foreign workers beyond the permitted amount are contributing to abuse of the program; these exemptions include a requirement that the H-1B worker earns at least $60,000 annually, and one that states she/he holds the equivalent of a master’s degree or higher. A press release for the legislation explains this:
“Because Masters degrees are often easily obtained by foreign workers and the $60,000 salary requirement was never indexed for inflation or updated, these two exemptions have allowed dependent companies to flood the H1-B lottery with applications and take up a disproportionate amount of the visas that would otherwise go to highly skilled individuals that would not be working at dependent companies and would not displace American workers.”
To close these loopholes, the Issa/Peters bill would eliminate the master’s degree exemption, and raise the minimum salary requirement to $100,000.
Why seek professional help?
As the H-1B program faces increasing scrutiny, applicants are advised to seek professional help to gather and file necessary documentation. An experienced visa attorney can ensure applications are free of errors, and demonstrate the applicant meets the criteria required by United States Citizenship & Immigration Services.
For more information…
To learn more about U.S. visas and the immigration process, and to take advantage of our array of immigration services, please contact KPPB Law at (703) 594-4040 or contact us online to set up a complimentary consultation.