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Congress Is Moving to Clamp Down on Companies That Use H-1B Visa Workers

November 16, 2017, 1:41 PM UTC

The House Judiciary Committee just took a step toward toughening the rules for H1-B visas.

Introduced in January by Republican California Rep. Darrell Issa, the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act seeks to make it more difficult for “H-1B dependent” companies to obtain work permits.

On Wednesday morning, the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee, which is just the first of many steps to becoming law. Next, the bill will be voted upon by the House and will then be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and finally to the full upper chamber if it passes in committee.

The H-1B visa is a permit that allows American companies to hire foreign graduate level workers “in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty.” A company is considered H-1B dependent if 15% or more of its workforce holds this visa.

The bill seeks to change that threshold to 20% of the workforce, as well as make several other substantive changes to the existing rules. It calls for a minimum salary raise for H-1B holders from $60,000 to $90,000. Companies would be required to send reports to the Department of Labor about efforts to recruit American workers, and H-1B dependent employers could be subject to five random investigations annually by the Department of Labor. Finally, the bill would prohibit H-1B dependent employers from replacing American workers with H-1B employees.

Historically, a large percentage of H-1B visa holders are IT professionals from India. Consequently, many have accused H-1B dependent companies of replacing American workers with those from India. The Trump administration has promised to curtail the H-1B program, relying thus far on executive order and memos. Issa’s bill is “the first substantial effort to change the program through legislation,” notes the San Francisco Chronicle.

Issa explained that “Highly skilled individuals that come to America through the H-1B visa program add tremendous value to the U.S. economy.” Issa continued, “Unfortunately, the loopholes left open in H-1B have allowed a small handful of companies to game the system…” He added that his bill will protect American workers while increasing access to talent.