The landmark immigration bill currently working its way through the U.S. Senate may contain good news for those looking to enter the U.S. on a H-1B visa. While under current law, the U.S. only issues 65,000 skilled guest worker visas per year, the new bill would raise this cap to 110,000. There’s more to the issue than meets the eye, however. The bill may also contain a “poison pill” that could cause serious setbacks for the entire H-1B program.
The Poison Pill
The bill, if passed, would require the Department of Labor to create a website where companies looking to hire workers on H-1B visas must advertise and offer jobs to any U.S. workers who apply and are “equally or better qualified” than the immigrants seeking the positions.
U.S. workers could also lodge a complaint with the Department of Labor if they had applied to jobs that were filled by foreign workers. This ability to complain would last for years after the job was filled, and an audit could result in the fining of the company involved. The company could also be barred from hiring future H-1B workers for several years.
Furthermore, according to the New York Times, the Senate wrote the bill in a way that “penalizes companies that have a large share of foreign guest workers…eventually making it impossible for them to bring in any more.” Companies that have large numbers of American workers will be able to continue hiring foreign workers, while companies that have more foreign workers will not.
Pushing Out H-1B Employers
Ted Ruthizer, an immigration attorney, notes that “Employers may well decide they are not prepared to sift through hundreds or even thousands of resumes and then have to document the deficiencies of each U.S. applicant to hire an H-1B professional, no matter how talented.” If this is the case, employers of H-1B workers simply may stop choosing foreign workers to avoid the hassle, putting the whole H-1B system at risk.
Companies that provide temporary foreign professionals are being punished as well, says Som Mittal, the president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies. The punishment, however, goes against what Americans want, he says. “Why are we in the United States?” he asked. “We are there because American corporations want us.”
Bad for the Economy
“We are not able to fill all the jobs that we are creating,” Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel said in April. Despite this, co-sponsors of the immigration bill claim that American workers aren’t getting a fair chance at certain jobs. A staffer of Sen. Dick Durbin, one of these co-sponsors, claims that he has been contacted by “countless” tech workers who feel they missed out on jobs because they didn’t know they existed until they had been filled by a foreign worker.
The economy overall, however, benefits from immigrant workers. “That is not controversial [among economists],” Heidi Shierholz from the Economic Policy Institute said. “There is a consensus that, on average, the incomes of families in this country are increased…because of immigration.”
Sponsors of the immigration bill claim that it will “fix” immigration issues. With provisions like the one described above, however, it is hard to see how current and potential immigrant workers will benefit from it. If American companies are faced with potential fines and penalties for hiring foreign workers, they may decide that the effort simply isn’t worth it. The skilled guest worker visa program may be at risk.
Derek is currently blogging for shulman law group. Being an immigrant himself, he enjoys blogging about immigration reform and the problems it is facing today.