As election day approaches, support for instituting changes to the H1B visa program is growing. Businesses, immigration lawyers, and politicians alike recognize the value of the program, and the skilled workers that these visas bring into the American economy.
2015 Was a Record Year for H1B Visas
233,000 individuals applied for H1B visas in 2015. This was the highest level on record. Even so, the US government mandated a cap of 65,000 visas per year, with a further 20,000 being reserved for individuals holding advanced degrees. From 2013 through 2015, the USCIS saw an 88% increase in the number of applicants for H1B visas.
Indian Complaints Get Washington’s Attention
The Indian government has voiced their concerns over recent fee changes directly to US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Indian workers have been severely impacted by the sharp increase to H1B visa fees that were instituted last December. These increased fees apply to companies with more than 50 employees who currently employ more than half of their employees on H1B visas. These firms would be required to pay at least $4,000 more per visa.
Indians represent nearly 70% of H1B applicants and the increase has made it harder for American companies to hire everything from computer programmers to data scientists. US business leaders argue that these fees are making it harder for them to hire the talent they need to drive American companies forward.
73% of all H1B applications are for computer related positions including computer systems analysts, network administrators, systems administrators, computer programmers, software developers, etc. The remainder are largely comprised of accountants and auditors, management analysts, and financial analysts.
Even as the demand for H1B visas grows and more and more skilled individuals seek the help of immigration lawyers with their applications, some US legislators are seeking to restrict the programs even further. Recently, Representative Darrel Issa from California introduced legislation that would make it harder for US employers to hire H1B workers. Issa’s proposals would remove exemptions for US employers who do not advertise their positions to US workers first, and who do not pay H1B holders with a master’s degree at least $60,000 per year.
Under Issa’s proposal, employers would need to pay the employee at least $100,000 per year to qualify for an exemption. This sharp increase would make it very difficult for most employers to hire and pay for the labor they need.