Legislation & Law

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Proposed merit or a salary-based system will help “prioritize” people and, therefore, may actually promote healthy competition

I think the future of H-1B visa is much brighter than many people believe. Proposed merit or a salary-based system will help “prioritize” people and, therefore, may actually promote healthy competition. Let’s consider these top 3 potential scenarios:

Read also U.S. non-immigrant work visas types

  1. H-1B slots are prioritized for people with a U.S. academic degree. Suppose there are 250,000 applications arriving on April 1st (first day of application). About half of people applying have an american academic degree based on a government report I found. So these 125K students with American education will receive 1–1.5 year employment authorization to work in the U.S. (having a so-called Optional Practical Training) before they will need an H-1B. Most of them will try to convince their companies to sponsor their H-1B visas. This means that the chance of getting H-1b visa increases from 35% (250K applications for 85K slots) to 70% (125k U.S. degree-based applications for 85K slots). Not too bad, right?
  2. H-1B slots are prioritized for people with a minimum salary higher than the current one ($60K/year). This minimum is proposed to reach $130K which I personally don’t think will happen simply because most companies hire young foreign professionals for fairly junior technical roles and they have huge demand for these roles. $130K is a salary of a manager or a very senior technical person who is probably at the stage of his career where he is either a U.S. citizen already or doesn’t want to move from his home country anyway. So the salary minimum may go up to, say, $90K. $90K is a salary most companies will pay for high-quality professionals. As for the staffing companies that have been taking advantage of lower starting salaries, they will have to move their operations overseas. This may actually be a good thing because staffing companies will employ people who didn’t get their H-1B and will pay higher salaries than the home country may offer.
  3. H-1B slots will be allocated based on the country of citizenship, like Green Card slots. This means that representatives from each country may not get more than X slots per year and people who don’t make it to the first X slots have to stand in line and wait for their turn (so-called “priority date” in green card application process). This may help balance out the number of people from a single country, but it will also put some countries like China, Mexico, India and Brazil at a disadvantage. Standing in line may either mean an issuance of a temporary alien authorization to work (similar to the one given to people waiting for their green cards) or the fact that these people will have to go back home and wait until their turn comes.

We can hypothesize options all we want but the truth is that the lottery system currently imposed on H-1B application is broken and no longer works. So some drastic reforms are definitely in order.