It’s been about two weeks since the Gang of Eight’s “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” was presented before the Senate. In this article, we will explore the specific provisions that affect H-1B visas. It’s important to note that these provisions are not yet law and the bill may change by the time it lands on President Obama’s desk for signing, if it makes it there at all.
The CIR bill will immediately raise the H-1B visa cap from its current cap of 65,000 to 110,000. The 20,000 visa numbers set-aside for advanced degree holders will be increased to 25,000, but now all 25,000 of these visa numbers will only be available to advanced degree graduates in science, technology, engineering, or math. The bill will also increase the cap over time to a maximum limit of 180,000 H-1B visas based on a formula that uses the number of H-1B petitions that were filed the previous year. In any case, the increase or decrease will not be more than 10,000 per year. H-1B workers will also be given a 60 day time period to change jobs, which allow H1-B workers who have lost their jobs enough time to look for another H-1B position.
There will also be several enforcement mechanisms designed to increase H-1B visa holders’ wages and scrutinize H-1B dependent companies. There will be a new Department of Labor website where jobs must be advertised for 130 days to US workers. There will be increased scrutiny for the wages paid to H-1B workers. There will be additional fees ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, for companies that have 50 or more employees, of which 30% – 50% are H-1B workers,.
Reactions to the changes in H-1B visa laws have been both positive and negative. The government of India has reacted negatively, calling an increased wage requirement on Indian firms “discriminatory” and creating a competitive disadvantage when compared to US companies. There was also talk of India being prepared to take international action against the bill, citing violations of global trade laws. Tech companies have been cautiously receptive to the changes to the H-1B visa.
Our firm believes that the bill is a generally positive change to the H-1B visa system as well as to the immigration system comprehensively. It is not perfect, and each side has both gained and lost something. We are hoping that changes to the bill, if any, will only be positive in nature and will hopefully address the many shortcomings of the H-1B visa process. If you would like to discuss the H-1B visa, CIR, or any of your other immigration issues, contact our office today.