If you employ foreign workers with specialized skills in fields like technology and engineering, you’re probably worried about the future of H-1B visas. This year’s application petitions recently closed with the lowest number of applicants in five years. As the Trump Administration begins to evaluate changes to the H-1B program, the rumor is that lower paid foreign workers may experience more restrictions on immigrating to the U.S. to work. While we can’t tell you how worried you should be, here are some of the latest updates on the H-1B visa program:
• H-1B visas are awarded to qualified highly skilled and educated foreigners.
• This year 199,000 applications were received, compared to 236,000 in 2016, and 233,000 in 2015.
• Advocates say that the H-1B program allows the U.S. to attract and retain talented, highly skilled foreign workers who use their knowledge and experience to improve U.S. companies. H-1B visas are particularly important to the technology industry as the struggle to find employees with certain niche skillsets is increasingly challenging. These highly skilled foreign workers bridge the gap in jobs that are in high demand in fields like technology, math, science, and engineering.
• Critics say the H-1B program creates a negative impact by making fewer high-paying jobs available to Americans. There is also criticism that says the program is easily abused by staffing firms and makes it possible for companies to hire outsourced foreign workers who are willing to work for much less than an American. They argue that American workers are then asked to train foreigners to take over their job.
• President Trump is reviewing a list of potential changes to the H-1B visa program and proposed changes include limiting visas to the highest earning applicants and establishing new rules that will make it more difficult to find loopholes that take advantage of the system and undercut Americans.
• The U.S. typically issues about 85,000 H-1B visas each year. 20,000 of these are awarded to people who hold a master’s degree or higher. Visas are awarded via a lottery to qualified applicants.
Regardless of the outcome, the H-1B visa news is a hot topic in Human Resources. If you employ anyone on an H-1B visa, you need a contingency plan in place if you lose existing employees or are prevented from hiring additional specialized talent from overseas. How prepared are you with a back-up plan?
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