A Bill backing key changes in the H1-B visa programme that allows skilled workers from other countries to fill jobs in the U.S. has been reintroduced in Congress by two lawmakers. The Bill comes after a number of companies — Disney, SoCal Edison and others — have come under fire for abusing the programme.
Here is a look at the Bill and what it proposes.
What is a H1-B visa?
The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa given by the United States to employ skilled workers from other countries for various specialised fields of occupation for a certain period of time.
What is the H1-B visa programme Bill?
– The Bill prohibits companies from hiring H1-B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50 per cent of their employees are H1-B and L-1 visa holders.
– The Bill encourages companies to recruit American workers. This provision would crack down on outsourcing companies that import large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers for short training periods and then send these workers back to their home country to do the work of Americans, the Senators who introduced the Bill had said.
– It explicitly prohibits replacement of American workers by H1-B or L-1 visa holders.
– The Bill seeks to give the Department of Labour enhanced authority to review, investigate and audit employer compliance as well as to penalise fraudulent or abusive conduct.
– The Bill seeks to increase the minimum salary of H1-B visa holders to $1,00,000 per annum
– Currently, firms need not go through extensive paperwork if the potential H1-B employee has an equivalent of a Master’s degree or higher and he or she is paid at least $60,000 annually. The Bill aims to do away with the Master’s degree exemption (as “they are easily obtained by foreign workers”).
What is President-elect Donald Trump’s stand on the issue?
Donald Trump promised to end the misuse of visa programmes by companies to undercut American workers, referring to an incident that involved Indian companies and IT professionals on H1-B visas. Mr. Trump did not name India or the particular visa category. However, it was clear that he was referring to HCL Inc. and Cognizant Technology Solutions that hired Indian IT professionals on H1-B visas for contracts obtained from Disney World in Orlando, Florida. “My administration will follow a simple rule — buy American, hire American. Years earlier we used to take pride in buying things ‘Made in America’. We love our companies, but we don’t love them when they go out of our country. There will be consequences,” Mr. Trump said at an event.
How will the Bill affect Indian companies?
The Indian IT industry believes that this Bill does not address the root cause of the problem – shortage of STEM skills (or those in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in the U.S. “There is a perception that companies pay low salaries to people who are sent to work on these visas…High-skilled IT workers on temporary visas earn competitive salaries and cost their employers as much or more than their American counterparts. There are various studies which point this out,” said Shivendra Singh, Vice President and Head, Global Trade Development at Nasscom. Apart from the visa curbs, the U.S. had also recently hiked the visa fee for certain categories of the H1-B and L1 visas which has had an impact on Indian companies.