Two years ago, US President Donald Trump signed the executive order for the “Buy American and Hire American”. Ever since then, H1B Visas have been a hot topic.
What happened that made the H1B such a hot topic?
The “Buy American & Hire American” order specifically targeted the H1B Visa program for reform. The H1B program is meant for businesses to bring skilled foreign workers into the US.
In 1952, overriding a veto by President Truman, the Congress passed a law Section 101-15H1. Hence the H1.
In the 1950s, the original version of this visa was for someone from overseas who could temporarily provide services of “exceptional nature” requiring such merit and ability.
In 1990 President George W. Bush signed the law that we are working with today. The law created H1A for nurses and the H1B for speciality occupations. The H1A no longer exists. A speciality occupation requires at least a Bachelors degree.
Computer-related occupations constitute 69% of all H1Bs. Architecture and Engineering are a distant second.
Three-quarters of all H1B recipients are from India.
This visa has become so popular that in recent years the 85,000 visas available have been filled up in less than a week.
The H1B Visa allows foreign workers to stay in the US for 3 years. Thousands of these H1B Visa holders are approved for an extension each year which allows them to live in the US for up to 6 years. H1B holders who are approved for a Green Card are allowed to stay even longer.
As per President Trump, the American immigration system allows American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by foreign workers. These foreign workers sometimes fill in the same jobs for lesser pay than their US counterparts, as quoted by Bloomberg.
Many US tech workers have said that they have been pushed out of their jobs and replaced by H1B Visa holders hired by third-party Consulting companies. Job mobility is extremely limited for H1B Visa holders. Hence, they can be subject to lower pay, longer working hours and other conditions that a US citizen would not tolerate.
Meanwhile, tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon worry that they could be crippled without the H1B.
Ever since the executive order has been issued, the Trump administration has been gradually and often quietly updating its policies. They changed the lottery process to increase the number of H1Bs going to advanced degree holders. They require documentation on wages, job duties and placement of H1B workers at third-party sites. They moved to end the work permit for H1B spouses. In the end, they are simply denying more H1B applications.
Congress will have to act if there have to be meaningful changes to the H1B Program. In the time being, no one should expect the H1B process to get any easier.
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