The changes proposed to the exempt category of the H-1B visa early in 2017 will disproportionately affect Chicago-based information technology companies and tech startups more than others.
A key provision of the proposed bill is the raising of the minimum salary for temporary workers to $100,000. The increase in minimum salary can potentially disqualify tens of thousands of foreign IT and tech personnel in the country.
How H-1B Visas Currently Work in Brief
The H-1B non-immigrant visa allows US employers to hire graduate level workers with a technical specialization. It helps employers to hire specialists without going through many of the extra steps required for other visas. The government caps these visas at 85,000 per year.
Specialists can stay in the country for 3 to 6 years. While here, H-1B workers can also work with a Chicago immigration lawyer who can help them apply for a green card. This makes H-1B workers ideal for many companies that can then hire them on permanently.
Specialists from India Receive the Greatest Percentage of the H-1B Visas
Outsourcing firms, most of which are Indian, place technical specialists with small and major American companies. Year after year, India accounts for over 60% of the issued H-1B visas. American tech companies hire these specialists with the current minimum salary of $60,000.
Increasing that minimum destroys one of the factors that made these specialists attractive to American companies to begin with. In addition, it will put a strain on the Indian IT industry that outsources specialists.
Many smaller American tech and IT businesses in Chicago hire a large amount of H-1B workers. A drastic increase in minimum pay would effectively put those companies out of business, or at least force them to make some very hard choices. Tech startups, which also employ many H-1B workers, would lose out on affordable skilled labor and innovators.