In a move that may hit Indians hard, a H1-B visa reform bill aiming to make hiring Indians costlier has been tabled in the US House of Representatives. The bill also includes certain provisions including doubling the minimum wage that would make it difficult for firms to replace American employees with foreign workers, including from India. The bill calls for doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000.
According to the bill, the employers would now first offer a vacant position to an equally or better qualified American worker before seeking an H-1B or L1 visa holder.
The Indian IT industry, which sends over 60 percent of its total exports to the US, will be hit particularly hard if the bill is enacted into a law, as it heavily relies on H-1B visa workers for sustaining its American operations. Indians have also been awarded the highest number of H-1B visas among all nationalities in the US, all along since the program came into existence in 1990.
According to Economic Times, the Bill needs to become a law and meanwhile it can face a tough court challenge, testing the authority of the Congress to make such changes.
Under the H-1B and L1 Visa Reform, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have additional oversight authority to investigate fraud and abuse as well as to increase penalties for companies that violate the bill’s requirements.
Earlier Donald Trump’s spokesperson Sean Spicer reported on Monday that H-1Bs and other visas are “a part of larger immigration reform effort that Trump will continue to talk about through executive order and through working with Congress.”
“There is an overall need to look at all these programs and you will see that both through executive action and through comprehensive legislative measures a way to address immigration as a whole and the visa programmes,” he said.
The US issues 85,000 H1-B visas every year, of which 20,000 are for master’s degree holders from US universities. Because of the large number of applicants – 236,000 in 2016 – the H1-B visas were issued through a lottery system.
New president Donald Trump has been shaking up America’s immigration policies radically since he assumed office on Jan 20. It was reported last week that Trump was considering four separate executive orders, which would change rules governing employment for foreign workers in the US. According to an article in news website Vox, “Limiting legal immigration: Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” was the theme of one of the executive orders.