April 1st commences the H-1B temporary worker application season in immigration when employers file their H-1B visa applications with the two federal processing facilities located in Vermont and California. Many U.S. businesses, particularly in technology, use the H-1B visa program to hire high-skilled foreign workers, many with advanced degrees, in specialty occupations. The “lottery” system limits the number of temporary worker visas by a 65,000 regular cap amount and a 20,000 masters exemption cap on H-1B workers with advanced degrees[i]. Half of the applications will be kicked out by a random computer-generated lottery system. Applications are accepted for five days and then the lottery begins. Congress limits the limitation of annual H-1Bs approved and that limit has been set since 1990 – many agree that the “lottery” system is broken.
Recently, the Congressional Budget Office (an independent non-partisan office) reported, “a modest increase in H-1B visas and green cards for high-skilled workers would reduce budget deficits by $110 billion over the next 10 years.[ii]” Despite the projected economic benefit, the H-1B program remains inflexibly stuck in the past pending immigration reform.
Many employers and economists value the benefit of the H-1B visa program to the U.S. economy.
Why should Congress increase the H-1B limit? Simply, the demand exists and it is good for business and our U.S. economy. The technology industry needs workers with specialized research and engineering skills. General Counsel for Microsoft, Brad Smith, told NPR in a recent article, “We need to continue to attract some of the best and brightest people in the world to come and join us in world-leading [research and development] efforts.[iii]” The NPR article highlights the number of consulting companies using H-1B contract workers and the cost savings to American companies.
Close to half of the H-1B visas issued go to offshore outsource companies, according to Ron Hira, professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. According to Hira, “What these firms have done is exploit the loopholes in the H-1B program to bring in on-site workers to learn the jobs [of] the Americans to then ship it back offshore,” he says. “And also to bring in on-site workers who are chapter on the H-1B and undercut American workers right here.”
The H-1B temporary worker program is a component of much needed immigration reform.
Whether you are for or against some of the ways temporary worker visas are used by companies, the argument for reform of the H-1B program and Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“CIR”) is compelling. The CIR that passed the Senate would increase the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 110,000 per year and included several provisions to benefit highly skilled workers and individuals with extraordinary abilities, especially in research, education and business. Click the link to view the Summary of H-1B Visa Changes, Green Card, Startup Visa in 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
In her April 1, 2014 editorial, Eleanor Pelta, American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) Past President pokes fun at the foolishness (pun-intended) of the failure to fix the limited lottery system. “It is foolish to place artificial limits on the number of smart and highly educated professionals who can come here to work for U.S. employers, when it is obvious that the number of H-1B applications filed each year is well regulated by market demand,[iv]” says Pelta. From the supply and demand model underlying our economy, her statement makes sense and businesses should be able to be competitive and hire the best talent and satisfy job demands.
If you are hiring an H-1B visa worker or if you are an immigrant in the U.S. on a temporary worker visa and need to adjust your immigration status, Attorney KiKi M. Mosley can help answer questions and represent you in the process. Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including PIP and adjustments of immigration status. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.
[iii] NPR blogs: Who’s Hiring H-1B Visa Workers? It’s Not Who You Might Think. By Martin Kaste, Apr. 3, 2013.
[iv] AILA Leadership Blog: America’s April Fools’ Lottery Is No Laughing Matter. By Eleanor Pelta, Apr. 1, 2014.