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H-1B visas

Trump Issues Executive Order on H-1B Visas Under ‘America First’ Campaign

By Peek & Toland on April 19, 2017

Trump Issues Executive Order on H-1B Visas Under ‘America First’ Campaign
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on H-1B visas this month, ordering a review intended to eliminate abuses of the system.

Trump signed the executive order on April 18 at the headquarters of hand and power tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc. in Wisconsin. He said it will help American workers whose jobs are threatened by skilled immigrants. The order outlines a fundamental review of the system by agency heads.

Trump took aim at what he said are hiring abuses in a visa program heavily used by U.S. technology companies. He issued the order as part of his ‘America First’ campaign.
The H-1B visa program is one of the most important mechanisms companies use to bring skilled overseas workers to the United States. There is a cap of 65,000 visas issued every year and a 20,000 cap for master’s visas. Immigration authorities receive far more applications than visas are available and they go into a lottery system. In April, 236,000 H-1B visa applications were received.

Trump was critical of the H-1B visa system during the election campaign. In March, the Trump administration suspended the expediting of H-1B visas.The executive order is the first comprehensive announcement from the Trump administration about the fate of the H-1B program. However, the executive order is vague and leaves unanswered questions, according to commentators.

What the New Executive Order on H-1B Visas is Likely to Do

1. Force Companies to Pay More
Concerns that companies are using H-1B visas to hire cheap foreign workers who undercut the local workforce means the review is likely to up the wages employers must pay visa recipients.
The administration has indicated it will change the way the “prevailing wage” is worked out for H-1B visa calculations. It could start handing out visas for the highest-paid jobs and best-educated employees instead of giving work to any applicant who meets the basic requirements for the visa.

2. Crack Down on Outsourcing Firms Using Visas
The executive order is also intended to target outsourcing firms that apply for large numbers of H-1Bs to staff call centers. These firms are accused of bringing tech workers over from India on low wages for short time periods. Requiring firms to pay more could be a disincentive to the outsourcing firms.

3. Ending the Lottery
Trump has pledged to end the “random lottery” presently used to allocate the 85,000 H-1B visas every April and to replace it with a “merit-based” system.

4. Seek New Rules from Agencies to Stop Abuse of the System
The order directs U.S. agencies to propose rules that will prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the program.

What the New Executive Order on H-1B Visas Doesn’t Do

1. Provides a timetable for changes to the H-1B visa system
While agencies have been asked to come up with proposals, no timetable is set out in the order for the implementation of changes. However, the order says department heads should submit a report within 220 days of the date of the order and “shall include specific recommendations to strengthen implementation of Buy American Laws, including domestic procurement preference policies and programs.”

2. Set out a Mechanism for Change
Changes to the H-1B visa program require Congressional approval because the terms of the program are set out in the 1965 Immigration and Nationalization Act. The executive order does not contain any guidance about how changes would be implemented.

3. Provide Hard Figures
The executive order does not suggest a wage companies should pay skilled foreign workers or give guidance about the number of visas that will be issued in the future.

Notwithstanding the many unanswered questions, it’s clear the government’s direction on H-1B visas is a restrictive one. In these confusing times it makes sense to hire an experienced Austin business and immigration lawyer. Call us at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

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Foreign Tech Workers Face Uncertain Future Under Trump

By Peek & Toland on April 3, 2017

Tech companies regularly bring foreign tech workers over on visas for skilled employees. Workers from India and China are particularly popular. However foreign tech workers face an uncertain future under President Donald Trump and his new Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions.

Recently, Reuters reported on how Sessions is a staunch critic of the skilled worker program.

Every year, there is a scramble for the 65,000 H-1B visas made available by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in April. The cap for the visas is quickly reached.

Foreign tech workers face uncertain future

Feds put squeeze on foreign tech workers

The tech industry has lobbied hard for an expansion of the program. It now faces a fight to keep it intact and to maintain the supply of foreign tech workers, Reuters reported.

Trump’s stance on H-1B visas was inconsistent during the 2016 election campaign. Sessions remains a staunch opponent.

The new attorney general tried to curtail the program and introduced legislation in 2016 aiming to make the visas less accessible to major outsourcing companies like Infosys. These companies are among the main users of H-1B visas. They provide foreign contractors to American companies.

Overseas Tech Workers May Be in Short Supply

“Thousands of U.S. workers are being replaced by foreign labor,” Sessions said at hearing in February.

The narrative that foreign workers on H-1B visas are undercutting American workers was put forward by the Trump campaign last year. There are, nevertheless, restrictions that are intended to prevent employers from using the visas to undercut local workers.

Companies that apply for an H-1B visa must file labor condition application with the Department of Labor to certify that the foreign applicant will be paid the prevailing wage, as determined by the department.

While Trump’s approach to H-1B visas was variable in 2016, his most recent pronouncement after the presidential election was worrying news for companies that hire skilled foreign tech workers.

He indicated that the visa program will come under scrutiny once he takes office.

Trump listed five executive actions he intended to take on his first day in office. They include asking the Department of Labor to investigate “all abuses of the visa programs that undercut the American worker,” Computerworld reported.

At a rally in Ohio in October, Trump declared:

“Companies are importing low-wage workers on H-1B visas to take jobs from young college-trained Americans.”

The uncertainty about the future of the H-1B visa program and how it will apply to foreign tech workers makes it important to apply as soon as possible if you are seeking workers from abroad. Call Peek & Toland for help with your visa application in Texas at (512) 474-4445.

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H-1B Visa Restrictions Rattle Indian Businesses and Tech Companies

By Peek & Toland on March 31, 2017

The effects of likely H-1B visa restrictions in the United States are being felt in India which supplies the largest number of skilled overseas workers under the program.

News that legislation affecting H-1B visas was introduced into the House of Representatives led Indian IT stocks to fall in late January. In March, the U.S. government ended a program allowing H-1B visas to be expedited.

The bill would force firms which take on workers on H-1B visas to double the minimum salary to prevent U.S. workers being undercut to $100,000. An article in First Post stated Indian tech workers fear far fewer companies in the United States will seek skilled foreign workers if the bill becomes law.

Indian workers are alarmed by H1-B visa restrictions

H-1B visa restrictions alarm India

Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, introduced the bill that he said was intended to punish outsourcing companies.

Any company paying H-1B workers less than $100,000 would be required to show it couldn’t hire Americans for the same jobs.

There’s a similar requirement under existing law but the threshold is $60,000, a figure established in 1998 that exempts foreign workers with master’s degrees. Issa’s bill would remove that exemption.

Another bill introduced in the Senate would eliminate the lottery system for H-1B visas and give U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) the task of setting up a “preference system” enabling foreign students educated in the U.S. to get priority on visas. This bill is also aimed at preventing companies using the visa system to “outsource” jobs, reported CNN.

The Trump Administration Considers H-1B Visa Restrictions

The Trump administration has also made clear its willingness to change the H-1B visa program in a way that’s likely to restrict it.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Trump is considering changes to the scope of the program.

Potential H-1B visa restrictions have alarmed many companies including technology giants and the biotech industry.

A Bloomberg article made it clear companies of all sizes that sustain the $324 billion U.S. biotech industry are alarmed by the immigration clampdown.

These companies rely on the world’s best scientists as well as researchers.

A crackdown on H-1B visas for these workers may set back important research including cancer treatment, according to executives.

Trump’s immigration travel ban may also affect expertise from overseas in the biotech industry.  Hospitals and universities are also likely to be affected. The ban to restrict travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries was blocked by the courts in February. The Trump administration is reported to be working on a narrower ban.

If you are concerned about H-1B visa restrictions, it’s important to get your application ready.

On April 1, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will start accepting H1B cap-subject case filings for fiscal year 2018.

We can help you be ready for visa cap season. Call our Texas immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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Study Finds Immigrant Workers Are Not Cheap Labor

By Peek & Toland on March 22, 2017

There is a commonly held perception that immigrant labor is cheap labor and immigrant workers are paid less than their American-born counterparts.

It’s a perception that’s not borne out by the statistics, according to an article in The Atlantic.

The article looked at one of the most talked about types of visas, the H-1B program that is used to bring skilled foreign workers to the United States.

The H-1B program was intended to help companies recruit workers with difficult-to-find skills.

immigrant workers are not cheap labor

Figures suggest immigrant workers are not cheap labor

It became an issue during the presidential election when critics claimed it allows employers to hire thousands of cheap IT workers to replace American workers.

Supporters say the H-1B program is necessary to meet a skills gap and bring in the best talent from around the world. It’s used to bring over thousands of workers from India.

The Atlantic article pointed out foreign students are more likely to have expertise in STEM fields than Americans and many of them have been studying for years at universities in the United States.

As we point out on our website, these temporary visas are in high demand and companies seeking workers more enter a visa lottery.

A recent study has questioned the perception that these workers represent cheap labor from overseas.

A study released in late 2016 by economists at the University of California, San Diego, and Dartmouth College found that the average foreign worker in science and technology jobs makes only slightly less than American-born workers from the outset, equating to about 94 cents on the dollar. After working in the United States for five years, the average foreign STEM worker makes more money than the average American – $1.04 for every dollar their American colleagues make.

There are a number of theories behind these statistics. Foreign workers may acquire more work experience in the United States and study more. Another explanation is that after obtaining a green card, immigrants can end up in better-paying jobs. There’s a big disparity compared to non-STEM fields. In these areas, it takes two decades for immigrant workers to achieve equal pay with their American counterparts.

Gordon Hanson, an economist at the University of California and the lead author of the report, said the study revealed no evidence that H-1B workers were undercutting their native counterparts.

If you are seeking a visa for a foreign worker,  our Texas immigration lawyers can help you. Contact us here for more information.

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