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Are reforms on the way for the H-1B visa program?

While immigration law seems to be an issue that significantly divides Washington politicians and the populace as a whole, one issue is getting support from both sides of the aisle. President Donald Trump and congressional members from both parties are looking to overhaul visa programs used by corporations to bring overseas workers to the United States.

Technology companies in particular are taking notice as the implication of any reforms could be complex and far-reaching.

Established in 1952, the H-1B is the best known out of multiple visas U.S. companies use to hire workers from other countries. The visa is designed for businesses to hire temporary workers from other countries when qualified candidates cannot be found in the United States.

Businesses can recruit up to 85,000 employees from abroad annually for specialty positions that include technology, science, medicine, architecture and others. India citizens account for the most H-1B visas. In 2016, applicants filled the quota after only one week.

High-profile technology companies are seeking to increase that number. Over the years, many of these visas went to foreign workers who are paid less than their American peers are compensated. These “cost-saving measures” contradict, if not abuse the program’s original intention.

Many in Washington see the H-1B program as “cheap labor” that takes jobs away from U.S. citizens. Potential reforms include:

  • Adding a step to the process where employers hire Americans before those from other countries
  • Making it more difficult for lower-paid jobs to qualify for H-1B visas
  • Prioritize visas to the most highly paid workers overseas, ending the random lottery

Any possible reforms only increase the need for an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney who stays on the cutting edge of the latest changes in the law.

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