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The Latest H-1B Visa Bill May Not Be the Greatest H-1B Visa Bill

You thought you had a reason to root for Darrell Issa. Not so fast.

You thought you had a reason to root for Darrell Issa. Not so fast.

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The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is considering legislation that would tighten loopholes in the current H-1B work visa program. The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (HR 5801) would require firms who hire H-1B guest workers to pay those workers a minimum annual salary of $100,000. It also requires those companies to advertise for American workers before seeking H-1B candidates (something required of other visas, including H-2B) and eliminates exemptions for H-1B candidates with a masters degree.

Current U.S. law sets the minimum annual salary at $60,000 with no adjustment for inflation. It also includes the masters degree exemption. Technically, companies employing 15% or more visa workers are required to demonstrate “good faith” efforts to hire American workers, but toothless enforcement means H-1B visas simply undercut wages and displace job-seekers here at home:

“It was pretty easy to see that [cheap labor] wasn’t the intent of H-1B, which is to make up for shortage when you cannot find enough labor at any price,” Issa was quoted as saying by The Chicago Tribune.

There is concern, however, that HR 5801 does not go far enough. Some even fear the bill could be used as a weapon against future H-1B reform attempts. Critics say it is overly convoluted, features loopholes of its own, and fails to address the overarching problems with H-1B visas.

“This bill does nothing to fix the fundamental flaws of the H-1B,” said Ron Hira, associate professor of public policy at Howard University. “Employers will continue to hire H-1B guest workers because they are cheaper and indentured.”

The legislation “may make some outsourcers do a little more paperwork, but it won’t change their business behavior,” said Hira. “The H-1B program will continue to fuel offshoring and employers will continue to hire cheaper H-1Bs instead of U.S. workers.”

Perhaps the most effective solution might also be the simplest”

John Miano, a computer programmer who became an attorney and co-author of the recent book on the visa, Sold Out, says the Issa bill still includes loopholes.

The law is a tangle, said Miano. “It would be simple to replace this tangle with a single sentence that bans replacing Americans with H-1B workers.”


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