The H-1B visa program, designed to provide a legal pathway to highly skilled immigrant workers, may be changing. In early February, President Trump announced a 90-day review of the program. While these changes could happen through executive order, a few bills are circulating that may instead be pushed through Congress.
Given the political pressure stemming from President Trump’s recent executive orders, it’s entirely possible that administration officials will allow the legislative process to take the heat for any changes that end up being made.
Let’s review five key things you need to know about what Congress may be planning with their new H-1B visa bill.
What are The Options for The New H-1B Visa Bill?
On January 30th, the Trump administration announced a 90-day review of the H-1B visa program. This came after the controversial 90-day ban on travelers from seven Middle Eastern nations. The lower courts issued a ban on these restrictions, and additional rulings are expected as the order makes its way through the judicial process.
In the meantime, the Trump administration has turned its focus toward the H-1B visa program.
There are typically 85,000 H-1B visas granted each year via a lottery system. These visas are extended to some of the most educated professionals in medicine, technology, and science. The impact of increasing restrictions is anticipated to have a negative effect on these industries and tech leaders, who say the loss of talent, will be incalculable.
Here are five facts about the new H-1B visa bill that many in Congress feel is a necessary next step toward immigration reform:
- One proposal suggests the H-1B visa bill should eliminate the lottery and award visas to companies paying the highest salaries.
- A similar bill would raise the salary threshold from $60,000 to $100,000 and require employers to prove they cannot hire American workers instead.
- A bipartisan bill suggests priority be given to advanced degree holders being paid a high wage. The bill’s sponsors suggest this would reduce outsourcing firms undercutting American companies for a fraction of the going rate.
- The bipartisan H-1B visa bill would also increase the authority of the Department of Labor to audit employers sponsoring H-1B visas. It’s anticipated that this would mean on-site visits for these employers.
- The “International Entrepreneurs Rule” passed during President Obama’s tenure may be scrapped. It allowed selected immigrant entrepreneurs to enter the U.S. temporarily to launch their business.
Beyond the human costs associated with these changes, it's anticipated that businesses will be negatively affected by tightened immigration restrictions. The tech industry, in particular, remains very concerned. A CNN article highlighted strong ties between the American technology sector and overseas talent: More than 50% of Silicon Valley companies worth $1 billion or higher, were at least partially founded by immigrants.
Katz Law Office, Ltd. remains firmly committed to providing you with expert council during this time of turmoil and transition. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation. We’re here to help.