Immigration Reform: Possible Changes to the H-1B Visa

H-1B visas are controversial because some argue that they lower wages for U.S. workers, while others say they are necessary to fill highly skilled positions, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors.

The H-1B visa is granted to individuals who are in a specialty occupation that requires a higher education degree. Recently, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill that would expand the number of H-1B visas issued each fiscal year. However, immigration reform has stalled, and so far the House of Representatives has not yet passed this bill.

Some of the most important provisions of the proposed law include:

  • A category of employer is called the “H-1B skilled-worker dependent employer,” which is an employer in specific fields that has a skilled workforce comprised of at least 15 percent H-1B visa holders.
  • Annual audits of large companies are to be conducted for those comprised of at least 15 percent H-1B workers.
  • Employers would be required to post H-1B positions on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.
  • When an H-1B worker has applied for a position, both H-1B skilled-worker dependent employers and H-1B dependent employers would be required to offer the job to an equally or better qualified U.S. worker who applies.
  • A three-tiered wage system is going to replace the current four-tiered one. The prevailing wages effectively increase at each level. Employers who rely heavily on workers with H-1B visas must pay at least Level 2 wages.
  • After fiscal year 2015, there are going to be significant fees for employers with a high percentage of H-1B workers that have more than 50 employees. The fees can be up to $10,000 per petition, depending on the percentage of employees with H-1B visas already at the company.
  • For employers with more than 25 employees, there is an additional fee of $2,500 for each petition. For those with fewer employees, the additional fee is $1,250.
  • The bill includes a higher cap on H-1B visas. The cap starts at 115,000 and can increase in increments based on demand and the unemployment rate for relevant occupations.
  • The advanced-degree exemption would be limited to STEM graduates, but would be raised to 25,000.

If you are interested in obtaining or renewing an H-1B Visa, an experienced Florida immigration law attorney can offer effective guidance.

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