IT Reshoring News

November 02, 2016

A New H-1B Bill Dies – It Wanted to Close One H-1B Loophole (and Open Another)

A bill regarding H-1B visas was scheduled to go to vote in Congress, but was suddenly removed. What happened? What would the bill have changed? What does this mean for the future of H-1B visas?

Last month, the House Judiciary Committee kicked a bill affecting the H-1B system off its schedule.  This might not have been a bad thing.

H-1B bill pulled from House committee vote amid complaints – ComputerWorld

Here’s the story.  Two Representatives, Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Scott Peters (D-CA), introduced the “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act” earlier this year.  If passed, it would have modified existing H-1B law about replacing U.S. workers.

Currently, a business cannot replace a U.S. worker with an H-1B visa worker unless they made a “good faith” effort to find an American for the job.  However, the law had a loophole:  If the H-1B visa holder is paid $60,000 or holds a Master’s degree, then you could replace U.S workers freely.

The Issa-Peters Bill would have raised the $60,000 amount to $100,000.  It would also remove the Master’s degree exemption.  Would that help protect American IT workers?

Not really.  For one, many IT salaries are already above $100,000.  For two, there’s a provision in the bill which adds a new loophole!

"the term 'exempt H-1B nonimmigrant' means an H-1B nonimmigrant who receives wages (including cash bonuses) at an annual rate equal to at least the greater of $100,000 or the applicable adjusted ..."

The bolded text is the loophole.  A business could pay an H-1B a $60,000 salary, with a $40,000 “bonus” after meeting some conditions (the article uses reaching performance goals).

That’s all it would take for businesses to keep replacing American workers with H-1Bs.  Even after “reform.”

A source from a tech-related lobbying organization said that H-1B reform is “probably dead in 2016.”  The group initially supported the Issa-Peters bill, but withdrew their support once they discovered the “cash bonuses” loophole.  They hope for renewed reform attempts in 2017.

The Issa-Peters bill does show some federal politicians interested in H-1B reform.  But closing one loophole & opening another doesn’t help.