New H-1B Legislation Makes the Program More Restrictive

January 31st, 2017

Representative Zoe Lafgren of California introduced the ‘High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017’ to drastically reform the H-1B visa program, which is the predominant work visa for professionals in the US. This legislation does the following:

1. Prioritizes the allocation of H-1B visa numbers (which are capped) of companies willing to pay 200 percent of a wage calculated by a survey;
2. Eliminates the category of lowest pay;
3. Requires employers to first offer a vacant position to equally or better qualified American workers before seeking an H-1B or L-1B;
4. Raises the salary level at which H-1B dependent employers are exempt from the non-displacement and recruitment attestations requirements to greater than $130,000 (more than double the current $60,000 minimum salary for exemption);
5. Removes the ‘per country’ cap for employment-based immigrant visas so that foreign workers worldwide are treated more fairly;
6. Sets aside 20 percent of H-1B visas for small and start-up employers (50 or fewer employees); and
7. Creates a new path for F-1 students to obtain legal permanent residency.

This legislation will only make it more difficult for companies to grow and thrive by not increasing the overall H-1B visa quota and creating these additional requirements. Smaller companies may need to hire more entry-level workers in industries where there is a dearth of qualified US workers and assigning priority to the higher paid workers will obstruct these companies ability to attract knowledgeable and skilled workers. Small companies are the backbone of our economy and ultimately create more jobs for Americans.

Also, the current H-1B regulations already require H-1B dependent and non-exempt employers to conduct recruitment to ascertain the market for US workers. It is not necessary to convert the H-1B program into a full-scale PERM labor certification case, which requires employers to conduct recruitment in order to sponsor their foreign employees for legal permanent residency.