New H-1B Bill in U.S. calls for doubling minimum pay

Legislation will make it difficult for firms to use the programme to replace American employees with foreign workers, including from India.

Updated - November 28, 2021 10:11 pm IST

Published - January 31, 2017 01:28 pm IST - Washington

File photo shows people waiting outside the U.S. Consulate in Chennai.

File photo shows people waiting outside the U.S. Consulate in Chennai.

A new bill introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren proposing changes in the H-1B visa programme seeks to raise the minimum salary under the scheme to $1,30,000 from the current $60,000.

The legislation, if passed, could hit Indian and American IT companies which use H-1B visas to hire foreign skilled workers, including Indians.

 

Long-pending issue

A comprehensive immigration reform through legislation, however, is a long-pending issue in the U.S. and thrashing out a law that accommodates all domestic constituencies in the country is not an easy task. On H-1B alone, there are at least four bills now, including the one introduced by Ms. Lofgren.

She argues that while the proposed change will allow companies to hire foreign talent when it is locally unavailable, it plugs the loophole that allows them to undercut local employees by bringing cheaper replacements from abroad.

“My legislation refocuses the H-1B programme to its original intent — to seek out and find the best and brightest from around the world, and to supplement the U.S. workforce with talented, highly-paid, and highly-skilled workers who help create jobs here in America, not replace them.”

She represents parts of Silicon Valley in the U.S. House, as does Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna, who also supports such restructuring of the H-1B programme.

 

While the legislative route to immigration reforms is fraught, an executive action could immediately roll back presidential decisions that expanded the scope of the original legislation, under George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Vox.com published the draft of an executive order on immigration reform that awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

The proposed order requires Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to carry out “site visits” at places where guest workers with L-1 visas are employed immediately. Within a period of two years, the DHS will expand such inspections to all sites where guest workers are employed. L-1 visas are used for intra-company transfers. It also requires the DHS to “improve monitoring of foreign students” in the U.S.

STEM programmes

The document titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” was one of the six documents that Vox received from a source.

The outlet did not publish the documents until two them turned out to be authentic. Since publication last week, a third one also turned out to be authentic — the one on restricting travel from Muslim majority countries.

The standard duration of Optional Practical Training (OPT) jobs is one year, but with extensions allowed by consecutive administrations it can now extend up to three years for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) masters.

The Obama administration allowed the last extension in May 2016.

“STEM OPT extension is especially appealing to Indian students, who are concentrated in master’s programmes in engineering and computer science.

“Data from SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) indicates that in 2016, 83% of Indian students, 43% of Saudi Arabian students, 78% of Iranian students, and 40% of Chinese students were enrolled in STEM programmes,” said Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of InterEdge, a U.S.-based provider of support services for international students.

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