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FMG Law Blog Line

Changes May Be Coming for H-1B Visa Program

Posted on: January 12th, 2017

By: Timothy Holdsworth

Recently, Representative Darryl Issa (R-California) re-introduced legislation that would work several significant changes to the H-1B visa program by “closing a loophole” in the current legislation. Currently, Companies must first take good faith steps to recruit and offer a position to an American worker prior to filing an H-1B application unless the H-1B worker receives wages of at least $60,000 or has attained a master’s or higher degree in their field of work. Rep. Issa seeks to increase this threshold to $100,000, with annual adjustments for inflation, and eliminate the masters degree exemption (full bill here).

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) plans to introduce legislation that also eliminates the master’s degree exemption, but increases the wage exemption to over $130,000. Rep. Lofgren’s bill would also eliminate the lottery system and prioritize allocation of H-1B visas first to employers that hire mainly American workers and then to H-1B-dependent employers based on how much they pay their employees above the prevailing wage for their area of employment. Under the current lottery system, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services performs a computer-generated process to randomly select 85,000 visas to review and rejects the remaining applications outright. Rep. Lofgren’s bill would also set aside 20% of the annual allocation of visas for small and start-up employers (those with 50 or fewer employees).

These proposed changes are not surprising given President-elect Donald Trump’s statement during his campaign that he will “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”

Although any changes are unlikely to be instituted before this year’s filing period, we will continue to keep you apprised of any modifications to the H-1B visa program and are available to guide you through each step of the current process.

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