What's a H-1B Visa? Here's How High-skilled Workers Get Them

H-1B visas have gotten renewed scrutiny under the Trump administration. The temporary work visas, created in the 1990s, allow employers to hire high-skilled foreign workers, such as scientists, computer programmers and engineers. Each year, the number of applications filed by employers has gone up. In fiscal year 2016, employers filed H-1B visa applications for nearly 1.3 million positions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.Employers apply for H-1B visas on behalf of a potential job candidate. First, they must first file a Labor Condition Application with the U.S. Department of Labor. The employer must list the job, salary, length and location of employment. They must agree to pay the greater of the prevailing or actual wage for the position. Then, they must file an H-1B petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.Visa petitions go into a national lottery that's capped at 85,000 -- with 20,000 of the visas reserved for applicants with a U.S. master's degree or higher. Some occupations, such as education positions, are not subject to the cap. Current H-1B holders are not counted against the cap. H-1B visas last for three years and can be renewed for an additional three years. They can be extended, in some cases, if the recipient is waiting for a green card.The median salary for the roles was $75,000 for fiscal year 2014, according to the most recent annual report to Congress about H-1B holder characteristics by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. About 70 percent of the beneficiaries listed on the H-1B petitions that year were born in the India. The second most common country of origin was China, which represented 8 percent of the petitions. The vast majority -- 65 percent -- work in computer-related occupations and most were between the ages of 25 and 34.Three bills propose changes to the H-1B visa program -- two in the House and one in the Senate. One of the bills, called the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, would raise the annual salary requirement for companies who are heavy users of the program from $60,000 to $100,000.Another bill, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017, would step up enforcement by adding employer penalties for displacing U.S. workers and annual audits for companies with more than 15 percent of their workforce on H-1B visas.The third bill, High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, would raise wage requirements, prioritize employers who pay higher wages to H-1B holders and set aside 20 percent of H-1B visas for employees of small businesses and startups, among other changes.  Continue reading...

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