Against a backdrop of President-elect Trump’s repeated talks about tightening immigration rules, two California Congressmen, Representatives Darrell Issa and Scott Peters have co-authored a bill that would harm small businesses by raising salary exemption amounts for highly skilled foreign workers from $60,000 to $100,000. The bill, called the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, would limit a business’s ability to obtain an H-1B visa for a foreign worker unless the worker’s salary was at least $100,000 or more. Currently, the salary requirement is $60,000. If the bill passes, companies may be forced to concentrate in areas in which the prevailing wage is greater than $100,000.
The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act
According to USA Today, the act is meant to close a loophole that exists in the H-1B visa immigration law. Under current law, businesses may apply for H-1B visas for highly skilled workers whose salaries would be at least $60,000. There is an exemption for foreign workers who have Masters’ degrees. Issa and Peters wrote the pending legislation in response to a move by Southern California Edison to lay off its American workforce while replacing the workers with foreign workers who were paid less.
Under the proposed law, businesses would have to pay salaries of at least $100,000 to foreign workers under the H-1B visa program. The current exemption for workers with Masters’ degrees or higher would be eliminated.
Potential Harms to Small Businesses
The probable effect of the bill would be to make businesses that already take advantage of the loophole to simply concentrate in areas in which the prevailing wages for highly skilled positions is greater than $100,000. If they did so, then they could still replace American workers with foreign workers at cheaper salaries. For small businesses that rely on highly skilled foreign workers, the law could cause significant harm. Especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, there are often not enough American workers who have the credentials needed to fill open positions. Small technology, engineering and biotech companies could have problems with finding Americans to fill their positions while also being unable to afford to pay the $100,000 salaries that would be required with the proposed restrictions.
A Chicago immigration lawyer may work to help his or her clients with submitting their petitions for H-1B visas. He or she may also advise his or her clients about legal changes that may impact the program.