The U.S. President Donald Trump, has proposed to let go of the computerised lottery system to award H-1B work visas to foreign technology professionals and substitute it with a wage-level-based selection procedure, a decision that is expected to counter the stress on the salaries of US workers.
On Thursday, the Federal Register notified the revised system.
Stakeholders have a month’s time to reply to the notification, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said. The move also assumes significance as it comes less than a week ahead of the US presidential elections.
The DHS said the proposed amendment is expected to help address the downward stress on the wages of American workers that is generated because of a yearly influx of relatively lower-paid, new cap-subject H-1B workers.
“Prioritisation and selection based on wage levels better balances the interests of petitioners, H-1B workers, and US workers.”
The H-1B visa, most desired by Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that permits US companies to hire foreign workers in speciality occupations that need theoretical or technical expertise. The H-1B program was set up under President George HW Bush to allow companies to fill up niche jobs as the tech sector started to witness a boom and it became difficult to find qualified workers. Many companies maintain they still need the program to fill key positions.
The US can issue up to 85,000 H-1B visas per year for jobs such as computer programmers, accountants, architects and database administrators. They are generally issued for an initial period of three years and can be renewed. People from India and China constitute the majority of the estimated 500,000 H-1B visa holders in the US.
The H-1B programme is often exploited and abused by U.S. employers, and their U.S. clients, primarily seeking to hire foreign workers and pay lower wages,” Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said.
Notably, US President Donald Trump, who has been vocal about regulating the US’ immigration policies, on June 22, signed the executive order which put a temporary ban on issuing new H-1B and L-1 visas till December 31.
Revamping US’ immigration policy is a key poll promise of the Republican leader under his America First policy.
“The current use of random selection to allocate H-1B visas makes it harder for businesses to plan their hiring, fails to leverage the H-1B programme to truly compete for the world’s best and brightest, and hurts American workers by bringing in relatively lower-paid foreign labour at the expense of the American workforce,” Cuccinelli added.
As per the DHS, revising the H-1B cap selection method by replacing the random selection process with a wage-level-based selection process is a better way to grant H-1Bs when demand exceeds supply. This new selection process would incentivise employers to offer higher wages or petition for positions requiring higher skills and higher-skilled workers instead of using the programme to fill relatively lower-paid vacancies, it said.
“The proposed changes would maintain the effective and efficient administration of the H-1B cap selection process while providing some prospective petitioners the ability to potentially improve their chance of selection by agreeing to pay H-1B beneficiaries higher wages that equal or exceed higher prevailing wage levels,” DHS said.