A new bill unveiled by House Representative, Darrell Issa has been proposed to amend the use of H-1B visas and make it more difficult to obtain cheaper foreign workers in the United States. This bipartisan bill, H.R. 5801, seeks to raise the salary threshold, which would require the companies to declare to the government that they have hired workers from outside the United States after unsuccessfully seeking competent Americans for that job. Under the current system, a company that employs more than 50 workers, at least 50% of whom are on H-1B visas in the United States, must inform the Labor Department that they were not able to find competent Americans for the job, if the job will pay the prospective employee less than $60,000 a year. The new bill, H.R. 5801, seeks to raise that threshold from $60,000 a year to $100,000 a year, while also removing the exemption for employees who have master’s degree.
This bill has been supported by tech industry lobbyist Compete America, which represents a coalition of tech businesses, including Microsoft, Intel, and Google. Meanwhile, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, a trade association of India’s IT and software services, which includes Infosys, Wipro and Tata as its members, claims that this bill is targeted at Indian firms. In the past year, the U.S. has already raised its H-1B visa fees, a move that was contested by the Indian government, claiming that this violated the General Agreement on Trade in Services. Indian government has yet to comment on H.R. 5801.
The 2016 Presidential Election will also play a major role in shaping the future of the H-1B visas. Republican nominee Donald Trump has stated that he would essentially institute a requirement that American workers are hired first. Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has stated that she plans to work with Silicon Valley firms and uphold status quo on the H-1B visa process. The presidential election along with H.R. 5801 can bring drastic changes to the H-1B program in this election year.
As these bills can take a long time to work their way through Congress (if the work their way through at all), in the past we have advised our client to not focus too much on these proposed bills. However, since recently Congress decided to raise the Public Law Fees for the H-1B visas drastically without much notice, any new proposal cannot be taken lightly. We do not foresee a major change coming to the H-1B Visa structure. However, this bill, along with the new fee hikes, should be something to keep in mind when constructing your workforce.