4 new H1b bills in congress that are trying to make H1b great again

Since the recent presidential elections, H1b visa program has become a hot topic. Several new reform bills are being introduced in the congress. In fact, H1b and EB-5 visa are the two legal immigration programs law makers are trying to reform lately. And there was also the executive order for the H1b. Here is the highlight of the 4 new H1b bills and the rumoured executive order,

New H1b bills

This page will also track employment based legal immigration bills that affects H1b employees.

A quick primer on the bill process in congress. Introduction of the bill is just the first step. It has to go through multiple and lengthier steps before it becomes a law. So, here are the bills introduced so far,

Table of Contents

H1b $100K bill by Darrel Issa

More formally: Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (HR 170) - Darrel Issa - California

  • H1b dependent employers (15% or more employees are H1b) have to pay atleast $100K a year for hiring a new H1b employee
  • Current law stipulates that Employers must pay atleast $60K a year, when hiring a master’s degree employee. Eliminates this exemption

H1b & L1 visa refrom bill by Chuck Grassley

More formally: H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act - Republican Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Democrat Richard Durbin (Illinois)

  • Employers with 50% or more employees on H1b or L1 visa are not allowed to hire additional H1b workers
  • Small employers with under 50 employees are exempted from the above rule
  • Placing a H1b worker at a worksite should not replace or adversely affect a similarly employed American worker at the site. This includes workers placed through other employers too
  • Increase law enforcement mechanisms for the Department of Labor
  • Eliminates the current practice of random lottery when allocating new H1b. Replace it with merit based preference system. Such a system prefers foreign students educated in the US, advanced degree holders, those with high salary and those with high skills
  • Introduce a minimum salary requirement for L1 visa employees
  • Redefine the criteria for issuing a L1 visa to allow only truly key employees

H1b $130K bill by Zoe Lofgren

More formally: High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 - Zoe Lofgren - California

  • H1b dependent employers (15% or more employees are H1b) have to pay atleast $130K a year for hiring a new H1b employee (Exceptions allowed with supporting data)
  • 20% H1b visas reserved for small startup employers with less than 50 employees
  • Replace the current H1b random lottery and award based on the order of salaries, starting from the highest.
  • Eliminate country cap: Employment based immigrant visas should be allocated to the more skilled worker regardless of country of origin. This ensures fairness to H1b worker by enabling them to change jobs and negotiate salary etc. Thus preventing any artificial wage depression caused in the market
  • Remove visa hurdles for US educated foreign students to apply for permanent residency

Fairness bill by Jason Chaffetz

More formally: Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 - Jason Chaffetz - Utah

  • Eliminates the country cap for the employment based immigrant visas. This stops the H1b worker’s dependency on the employer, there by ensuring easy job mobility and balanced job market.
  • Employees from a single country cannot exceed 85% of total visas issued in a year

Trump H1b visa executive order

And then finally there was the leaked draft executive order by the president Donald Trump. Most of the details of the draft order are vague. And this is still an unconfirmed and unsigned executive order. Here are the top highlights from the draft document.

“restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs and better protect U.S. and foreign workers affected by those programs”

“make the process for allocating H1B visas more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest”

“recommend changes to the immigrations [sic] laws to move towards a merit-based system”

So, the statements in the document seems to be more broad policy direction and doesn’t get into the details of how it would be achieved. So how and when it would impact the current visa programs is just speculation. If at all this order comes through in the same format, it would still take a long time to know what this all means. But one thing that seems to be certain is some kind of merit based system around immigration seems to be the way forward.

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