Changes Predicted to US H1-B Visa Scheme With Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Currently, the US tech industry, particularly the companies based in the global tech hub at Silicon Valley rely heavily upon highly skilled foreign workers brought into the United States on an H1-B visa. But there is now uncertainty about the future of this specialized work visa under the President-Elect, Donald Trump. Trump has proposed Senator Jeff Sessions as his new Attorney General, which could have negative repercussions for the US tech industry and skilled overseas STEM workers, as he has been opposed to the H1-B visa for some time.
Currently, America admits 65,000 workers from other countries and 20,00 graduates each year on the H1-B visa programme, with the bulk of these, currently around 75% going to Indian workers and graduate students.
Trump criticized the number of people from overseas coming to work in the United States throughout his presidential campaign, but at other times said that retaining skilled foreign students was of benefit to the US economy, so it remains to be seen what he will actually do when he is in power. One must not forget that Trump is first and foremost a businessman, with no previous experience in politics before his election campaign.
Trump sent mixed signals on the campaign trail, sometimes criticizing the visas but other times calling them an important way to retain foreign talent. Senator Sessions, on the other hand, has actively spoken out against the H1-B visa, and introduced legislation last year to increase the fees for the H-1B visa, and tried to reduce the number from 65,000 to 50,000 in a misguided bid to force US employers to hire locally as opposed to from India.
It is still not clear if he will use his new position as attorney general to implement further changes, but if he does then this will have a massive impact on Indian IT companies and tech workers who benefit greatly from the scheme. The H1-B visa is specifically for skilled workers in occupations that need a university education, and currently in many developed countries including the USA, there is a lack of university-educated workers in particular sectors, in particular, the STEM subjects, needed by the tech industry.
Huge tech companies such as Google and Microsoft generally fill positions by hiring from other countries, and use Indian businesses such as Tata Consultancy and Infosys to find skilled workers. US employers are legally bound to pay foreign workers the going rate locally for posts, and are not allowed to pay them any less than they would native workers.
Many US companies such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers want to get rid of the H1-B lottery and be able to hire skilled workers on high wages appropriate to their level of education and job experience. The tech industry also wants to raise the minimum wage and prioritise companies that want to help sponsor workers on an H1-B visa for Green Cards. If these changes are made that give priority to businesses’ that offer higher rates of pay then this could impact negatively on Indian outsourcing companies who receive the bulk of H1-B visas such as Tata who secured 8,333 H1-B visas last year. It looks as though the skilled H1-B worker visa is here to stay but changes are predicted to protect both foreign and American workers.