Bill on H-1B visas, affecting primarily foreign IT workers, back in US Congress

IT jobs

A bill backing key changes in the H-1B program that allows skilled workers from countries like India to fill high-tech jobs in the US has been re-introduced in the US Congress by two lawmakers who claim it will help crack down on work visa abuse, the BBC reports.

The ‘Protect and Grow American Jobs Act’ makes important changes to the eligibility requirements for H-1B visa exemptions was re-introduced last week by Republican Darrell Issa and Scott Peters; both from California.

The bill, among other things, increases the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to USD 100,000 per annum and eliminates the Masters degree exemption.

The legislation, they argued, will help crack down on abuse and ensure that these jobs remain available for the best and brightest talent from around the world.

The bill comes after a number of companies -- Disney, SoCal Edison and others -- have come under fire for abusing the H-1B visa program to replace American workers with foreign workers.

“In order for America to lead again, we need to ensure we can retain the world’s best and brightest talent. At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers,” Issa said in the article.

“The legislation we’re introducing today does both. It will ensure that our valuable high-skilled immigration spots are used by companies when the positions cannot be filled by the existing workforce,” Issa said.

By raising the salary to a level more in line with the average American salary for these positions, it would help cut down on abuse by removing the profit incentive and ensuring these positions remain available for companies who truly need them, a media release said.

“Curbing abuse of the H-1B system will protect American jobs and help ensure that visas are available for innovators who need them to maintain a competitive workforce,” Peters said.

India’s technology companies, led by Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro, have argued they are helping corporations become more competitive by handling their technology operations with specialised staff. They also contend the visa programmes allow them to keep jobs in the US and that if they have to pay more for staff, they will handle more of the work remotely from less expensive markets like India.

Last week, Microsoft addressed potential changes to visa programs in a filing with security regulators, saying, “changes to US immigration policies that restrain the flow of technical and professional talent may inhibit our ability to adequately staff our research and development efforts.”

In a statement to the New York Times, Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company believes “in a strong and balanced high-skilled immigration system and in broader immigration opportunities for talented and law-abiding young people.”

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg objected to President Donald Trump’s executive order to crackdown on immigrants and refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries, making him the first tech industry leader to hit out against the billionaire since the election.

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