H-1B visa

H-1B visa

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration & Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to employ foreign guest workers in specialty occupations.

The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor including, but not limited to, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialities, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum. Likewise, the foreign worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and state licensure, if required to practice in that field. H-1B work-authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer.

Duration of stay

The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six. An exception to maximum length of stay applies in certain circumstances:
# one-year extensions if a labor certification application has been filed and is pending for at least 365 days; and
#three-year extensions if an I-140 has been approved.

Congressional yearly numerical cap

The current law limits to 65,000 the number of aliens who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status. (The numerical limitation was temporarily raised to 195,000 in FY2001, FY2002 and FY2003.) In addition, excluded from the ceiling are all H-1B non-immigrants who work at (but not necessarily for) universities and non-profit research facilities. American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act, Pub.L.No.106-313, 114 Stat.1251, 2000 S. 2045; Pub. L. No. 106-311, 114 Stat. 1247 (Oct 17, 2000), 2000 HR 5362; 146 Cong. Rec. H9004-06 (October 5, 2000) This means that contractors working at, but not directly employed by the institution may be exempt from the cap. Free Trade Agreements allow a carve out from the numerical limit of 1,400 for Chilean nationals and 5,400 for Singapore nationals. Laws also exempt up to 20,000 foreign nationals holding a master’s or higher degree from U.S. universities from the cap on H-1B visas.

The Department of Homeland Security approved about 132,000 H-1B visas in 2004 and 117,000 in 2005.Department of Homeland Security Annual Reports on the H-1B visa program for 2004 and 2005

Visa renewals do not count towards the annual limits. Transfers among employers only count when changing jobs from an employer exempt from the limits (academia or research) to one that is not exempt.

Employer attestations to protect U.S. workers

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for ensuring that foreign workers do not displace or adversely affect wages or working conditions of U.S. workers.

The Department of Labor states that the H-1B law doesn't require employers to seek local talent before recruiting abroad for their US job openings, except in limited circumstances when the employer is considered H-1B dependent:

The DOL's [Strategic Plan http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/strat_plan_2006-2011.pdf] , Fiscal Years 2006-2011 (pg. 35) states: "... H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker."

The [Federal Register http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/fedreg/final/2006005740.pdf] , dated June 30, 2006, Section II, paragraph 4, "the statute does not require employers...to demonstrate that there are no available US workers or to test the labor market for US workers as required under the permanent labor certification program."

Employers must attest that wages offered are at least equal to the actual wage paid by the employer to other workers with similar experience and qualifications for the job in question, or alternatively, pay the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment, whichever is greater. By signing the LCA, the employer attests that: prevailing wage rate for area of employment will be paid; working conditions of position will not adversely affect conditions of similarly employed American workers; place of employment not experiencing labor dispute involving a strike or lockout.

Prior to 2005, the law required H-1B workers to be paid the higher of the prevailing wage for the same occupation and geographic location or that which the employers pays to similarly situated employees. Other factors, such Age and skill were not permitted to be taken into account for the prevailing wage. Congress changed the program in 2004 to require the Department of Labor to provide four skill-based prevailing wage levels for employers to use. Employers using this system classify most workers at the lowest skill level. This is the only prevailing wage mechanism the law permits that incorporates factors other than occupation and location.

The law specifically limits the approval process of LCAs to checking for "obvious errors and inaccuracies."8 U.S.C. 1182(n) The approval process for these employer attestations simply amounts to the checking the form is filled out correctly.

H-1B fees earmarked for U.S. worker education and training

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), reported on two programs, the High Growth Training Initiative and Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development (WIRED), which have received or will receive $284 million and $260 million, respectively, from H-1B training fees to education and train U.S. workersFact|date=July 2008.

Income taxation status of H-1B workers

The taxation of income for H-1B employees depends on their tax residency: whether they are categorized as Resident Aliens or Non Resident Aliens for tax purposes.

The tax residency can be determined based on the "substantial presence test".

If the substantial presence test indicates that the H-1B visa holder is a resident, then income taxation is like any other US person and may be filed using Form 1040 and the necessary schedules. Otherwise the visa holder must file as a non-resident alien using tax form 1040NR; he or she may claim benefit from Tax Treaties if they exist between the US and the visa holder's country of citizenship.

Persons who are in their first year within the US may choose to be considered a resident for taxation purposes for the entire year, and must pay taxes on their worldwide income for that year. This "First Year Choice" is described in IRS Publication 519 and can only be made once in a person's lifetime.

A spouse, regardless of visa status, must have a valid ITIN or Social Security Number in order to be included on a joint tax return with the H-1B holder.

[http://www.visataxes.com/spt.php Substantial Presence Test Calculator]

H-1B employment

According to the USCIS, "H-1B aliens may only work for the petitioning U.S. employer and only in the H-1B activities described in the petition. The petitioning U.S. employer may place the H-1B worker on the worksite of another employer if all applicable rules (e.g., Department of Labor rules) are followed. H-1B aliens may work for more than one U.S. employer, but must have a Form I-129 petition approved by each employer." [ [http://uscis.gov/graphics/howdoi/h1b.htm H-1B Frequently Asked Questions] ]

U.S. policy on maximum duration

In theory, the maximum duration of the H-1B visa is six years (ten years for exceptional Defense Department project-related work). H-1B holders who want to continue to work in the U.S. after six years, but who have not obtained permanent residency status, must remain outside of the U.S. for one year before reapplying for another H-1B visa.

There are generally two exceptions to the six-year duration of the H-1B visa:

*If a visa holder has submitted an I-140 immigrant petition or a labor certification prior to their fifth year anniversary of having the H-1B visa, they are entitled to renew their H-1B visa in one-year increments until a decision has been rendered on their application for permanent residence.

*If the visa holder has an "approved" I-140 immigrant petition, but is unable to initiate the final step of the green card process due to their priority date not being current, they may be entitled to a 3 year extension of their H-1B visa. This exception originated with the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000. [ [http://uscis.gov/lpBin/lpext.dll/inserts/publaw/publaw-22369?f=templates&fn=document-frame.htm#publaw-pl106313 American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000] ]

H-1B and legal immigration

Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few visa categories recognized as "dual intent", meaning an H-1B holder can have legal immigration intent (apply for and obtain the green card) while still a holder of the visa. In the past the employment-based green card process used to take only a few years, less than the duration of the H-1B visa itself. However, in recent times the legal employment-based immigration process has backlogged and retrogressed to the extent that it now takes many years for skilled professional applicants from certain countries (like India, the Philippines and China) to obtain their green cards. Since the duration of the H-1B visa hasn't changed, this has meant a lot more H-1B visa holders have to renew their visas in 1 year or 3 year increments to continue to be in legal status while their green card application is in process.

Quotas and changes in quotas

The number of new H-1Bs issued each year in the United States is subject to an annual congressionally-mandated quota. Each H-1B quota applies to a particular Financial Year which begins on October 1. Applications for the upcoming Financial Year are accepted beginning on the preceding April 1 (or the first working day after that date). Those beneficiaries not subject to the annual quota are those who currently hold H-1B status or have held H-1B status at some point in the past six years and have not been outside the United States for more than 365 consecutive days. This annual quota has had a significant impact on the high tech industry. It has generally been set at 65,000 visas per year, with some exceptions for workers at exempt organizations like universities and colleges (note: contrary to popular belief, non-profit organizations are not automatically exempt, but may be so if affiliated with a university or college). In 2000, Congress permanently exempted H-1B visas going to Universities and Government Research Laboratories from the quota.

During the early years of this quota in the early 1990s, this quota was rarely actually reached. By the mid-1990s, however, the quota tended to be filled each year on a first come, first served basis, resulting in new H-1Bs often being denied or delayed because the annual quota was already filled. In 1998 the quota was increased first to 115,000 and then, in 2000, to 195,000 visas per year. During the years the quota was 195,000, it was never reached.

In FY 2004, the quota reverted to 90,000 when the temporary increase passed by Congress in 1999 expired. Since then, the quota is again filling up rapidly every year, making H-1Bs again increasingly hard to get. More recently, the basic quota was left at 65,000 but with an additional 20,000 visas possible for foreign workers with U.S. advanced degrees. Of the 65,000 total, 6,800 are initially reserved for citizens of Chile and Singapore under free trade agreements with those countries; however, if these reserved visas are not used under the agreements, they go back to the general pool. Outside of the 65,000 quota, another 10,500 visas annually are available to Australian citizens under a similar but more flexible program, the E-3 visa program.

For FY 2007, beginning on October 1, 2006, the entire quota of visas for the year was exhausted within a span of less than 2 months on May 26, 2006 [ [http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060602-6971.html 2007 H-1B visa limit already reached] ] , well before the beginning of the financial year concerned. The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H-1B visas were exhausted on July 26. For FY 2008, the entire quota was exhausted before the end of the first day on which applications were accepted, April 2 [ [http://www.immigration.com/newsletter/H-1B%202007%20Quota.pdf USCIS REACHES FY 2008 H-1B CAP] ] . Under USCIS rules, the 123,480 petitions received on April 2 and April 3 that were subject to the cap were pooled, and then 65,000 of these were selected at random for further processing [ [http://www.uscis.gov/files/pressrelease/H1Bfy08CapUpdate041307.pdf USCIS Runs Random Selection Process For H-1B] , USCIS, April 13, 2007] . The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H-1B visas for FY 2008 was exhausted on April 30.

In its annual report on H-1B visas released in November 2006, USCIS stated that it approved 131,000 H-1B visas in FY 2004 and 117,000 in FY 2005. The inflation in numbers is because H-1B visas can be exempt from the caps if the employer is a University or Research Lab.

For FY 2009, USCIS announced on April 8, 2008 that the entire quota for visas for the year has been reached, for both 20,000 Advanced and the 65,000 quota. USCIS would complete initial data entry for all filing received during April 1 to April 7, 2008 before running the lottery [ [http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=c5b6628090e29110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD USCIS Reaches FY 2009 H-1B Cap ] ] .

H-1B-dependent employers

Recent H-1B legislation requires certain employers, called H-1B dependent employers to advertise positions in the USA before petitioning to employ H-1B workers for those positions.

For firms of 50 employees, an H-1B dependent employer is defined as having more than 15% of their employees in H-1B status. Smaller firms are allowed to have a higher percentage of H-1B employees before becoming 'dependent'.

Criticisms of the program

The H-1B program has caused a number of criticisms.

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman called the program a corporate subsidy, as quoted in a 2002 Article in computerworld. [ [http://www.computerworld.com/careertopics/careers/labor/story/0,10801,72848,00.html H-1B Is Just Another Gov't. Subsidy] ]

One criticism of the H-1B program has been over its role in replacing U.S. workers. The first documented cases occurred in 1994 when AIG (Livington NJ) and SeaLand (Elizabeth NJ), took advantage of a loophole in the law to replace their U.S. programming staffs with H-1B workers. These companies used contract job shops to supply the H-1B replacements. The companies could claim they did not apply for H-1B visas and the job shops could claim they had not fired any U.S. workers. Thus, the employer could openly and legally replace their U.S. workforce with H-1B workers.

The American Competitiveness Act of 1998 that temporarily expanded the H-1B program contained a provision that was alleged to close this loophole in the version that passed the House Judiciary Committee. The House leadership had it removed before the bill came to a vote. Critics of the H-1b program have suggested that because demand for US immigration rights is so huge, these provisions are difficult to enforce

Another criticism of the H-1B program is its vague eligibility requirements, however specific guidelines upheld by a body of case law define the requirements. While frequently described as a program for highly skilled workers, the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category specifically applies to specialty occupations. It can be argued that any job that requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, is highly skilled.

Specialty occupations have been defined as positions that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialized field and have generally been interpreted as being those that normally require the attainment of a Bachelor's degree. [United Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, The Department of Labor's Foreign Labor Certification Programs: The System Is Broken and Needs To Be Fixed, May 22, 1996, p. 20] Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors, business managers, and college professors. The H-1B visa program also includes fashion models.

Wage depression is a complaint critics have about the H-1B program: some studies have found that H-1B workers are paid significantly less than U.S. workers. [ [http://www.cis.org/articles/2007/back407.html Low Salaries for Low Skills: Wages and Skill Levels for H-1B Computer Workers, 2005] John M. Miano] [ [http://www.cis.org/articles/2005/back1305.html The Bottom of the Pay Scale: Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers] John M. Miano] It is claimed that the H-1B program is primarily used as a source of cheap labor. However the sources of these studies are normally conducted and reported by special interest groups that oppose the H-1B program. No definitive governmental study, either by the Government Accounting Office or the Congressional Research Agency has proven these statistics to be true. A [http://www.nber.org/papers/w12085 paper] by Harvard Professor George J. Borjas for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that "a 10 percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of doctorates lowers the wage of competing workers by about 3 to 4 percent." It also states that this phenomenon makes Americans to pay less for their online and software services and most of the times it is free

The Labor Condition Application (LCA) included in the H-1B petition is supposed to ensure that H-1B workers are paid the prevailing wage in the labor market, or the employer's actual average wage, whichever is higher, but some evidence exists that some employers do not abide by these provisions and therefore avoid paying the actual prevailing wage. However, studies show that the majority of employers do pay prevailing wages and the law provides stiff penalties for abusers. Fact|date=February 2007

DOL has split the prevailing wage into four levels, with Level One representing about the 17th percentile of wage average Americans earn - and about 80% of LCA are filed at this 17th percentile levelFact|date=September 2008. This four level prevailing wage can be obtained the DOL website, [ [http://www.flcdatacenter.com/OesWizardStart.aspx DOL Foreign Labor Certification Online Wage Library] ] and is generally far lower than average wagesFact|date=September 2008.

The "prevailing wage" stipulation is allegedly vague and thus easy to manipulate, resulting in employers underpaying visa workers. According to Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the median wage in 2005 for new H-1B information technology (IT) was just $50,000, which is even lower than starting wages for IT graduates with a B.S. degree. The US governments OES office's data indicates that 90% of H-1B IT wages were below the median US wage for the same occupation. [http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=201000479]

Historically, H-1B holders have sometimes been described as indentured servants, and while the comparison is not accurate, it had some validity prior to the passage of American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000. Although immigration generally requires short & long-term visitors to disavow any ambition to seek the green card (permanent residency), H-1B visa holders are an important exception, in that the H-1B is legally acknowledged as a possible step towards a green card under what is called the doctrine of dual intent.

Some visa holders work offsite for major US corporation, sending and coordinating work back in their homeland. They work at large corporations that require someone in-house to answer questions and deal with software bugs. Corporations have been using this service for a few years, with varied success. Software offshoring was very popular for a few years and still remains an attractive alternative for software development. The popularity has fallen off since the results have not always proven worthwhile. The major problem is that software specifications are usually not written in sufficient detail and omit necessary assumptions, thus they can easily be misinterpreted by someone outside the organization. The resulting software usually falls short of satisfying the specifications and can be more expensive in time and money than having the software developed on-site. Fact|date=February 2007

H-1B visa holders may be sponsored for their green cards by their employers through an Application for Alien Labor Certification, filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. In the past, the sponsorship process has taken several years, and for much of that time the H-1B visa holder was unable to change jobs without losing their place in line for the green card. This created an element of enforced loyalty to an employer by an H-1B visa holder. Critics alleged that employers benefit from this enforced loyalty because it reduced the risk that the H-1B employee might leave the job and go work for a competitor and that it put citizen workers at a disadvantage in the job market, since the employer has less assurance that the citizen will stay at his job for an extended period of time, especially if the work conditions are tough, wages are lesser or the work is extensive and deadlined. It has been argued that this makes the H-1B program extremely attractive to employers and that labor legislation in this regard has been influenced by corporations seeking and benefitting from such advantages.

Employers cannot typically sue employees if they leave their employment, regardless of whether the employee is an H-1B holder, a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. Although any employer can make this threat, the case history of employers who have attempted to sue or otherwise claim money from H-1B employees is limited. In 2001, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Phrasel Shelton ruled in an H-1B employee's favor on the unfair competition statute and ordered the employer to drop restrictive language in its employee contracts. The H-1B employee in the case was awarded over $200,000 in fees and damages. [ [http://news.com.com/2100-1017-256477.html?legacy=cnet 'Body shop' must pay fees in H-1B lawsuit] ] In 2002 the employer appealed the decision and lost. [ [http://news.com.com/2100-1017-270033.html?legacy=cnet Appeal denied in H-1B visa case] ] In addition, Department of Labor's H-1B regulations issued in 2001 prohibit employers from making an H-1B employee pay a penalty for quitting prior to an agreed upon date.

Guy Santiglia v. Sun Microsystems

In 2002, The U.S. government began an investigation into Sun Microsystems' hiring practices after an ex-employee, Guy Santiglia, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Labor alleging that the Santa Clara firm discriminates against American citizens in favor of foreign workers on H-1B visas. Santiglia accused the company of bias against U.S. citizens when it laid off 3,900 workers in late 2001 and at the same time applying for thousands of visas in 2001. In 2002, about 5 percent of Sun's 39,000 employees had temporary work visas, he said. "Sun Accused of Worker Discrimination", San Francisco chronicle, June 25,2002, [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/06/25/BU244728.DTL online text] ] In 2005, it was decided that Sun violated only minor requirements and that neither of these violations was substantial or willful. Thus, the judge only ordered Sun to change its posting practices. [ [http://www.corpimmigration.us/documents/lup_1.pdf Santiglia v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., ARB No. 03-076, ALJ No. 2003-LCA-2 (ARB July 29, 2005) ] ]

For the special case of companies deemed "H-1B dependent", current U.S. law states that employers who hire foreign workers must "attest" (though for H-1B, no formal proof of any kind is required) that there are no domestic workers who could fill their positions. H-1B Visa critics have argued that this is an entirely arbitrary and subjective measuring stick that an employer can change arbitrarily and retroactively to disqualify any U.S. applicants over H-1B applicants after the fact. For instance, if a company wants to hire a particular H-1B applicant over a U.S. citizen for a reason unrelated to skills, all that is necessary is to make up an arbitrary excuse retroactively when filing the H-1B petition, and with complete disregard to whether the U.S. applicant is really qualified.

Criticisms by H-1B holders

Payment of in-state tuition

In most states, H-1B workers and their dependents do not qualify for in-state tuition regardless of the amount of time spent in the US. In the past few years, a few states such as California, New York and Texas have extended in-state tuition to H-1B workers and dependents. Typically the decision to offer in-state tuition to H-1B and H4 residents is taken as a result of an adverse state court decision that uses the precedent established for G-4 visas in the Supreme Court decision in TOLL v. MORENO, 441 U.S. 458 (1979).

pouses cannot work

H-1B's spouse who generally come on H-4 (dependent visa) cannot work in the United States. This can cause stress to qualified spouses of the H-1B holders. Some of them wait in queue for years to get their own H-1Bs. In contrast, L-1 dependent visa holders (L-2) can work, if their EAD is approved by USCIS. The process takes about 3 months, and costs are around US$400.00.

An H-1B worker faces additional obstacles at his/her workplace

Any H-1B worker essentially has the following weakness: his ability to remain in U.S. is directly linked to his current job. H-1B holders can change jobs only with difficulty. In some cases, the holders of H-1B visas find their employers have not completely accurately represented the terms of employment; they find themselves in a foreign land with only a limited understanding of the legal system. H-1B workers can be disciplined at any time, by being laid off: the worker then has to leave U.S. within 10 days (and even these 10 days are allowed only at USCIS's discretion, no days are actually guaranteed by law). The worker can only avoid leaving the country by finding another employer that is willing to sponsor for H-1B, often impossible in the short amount of time available. If unhappy with the workplace, a U.S. citizen or green card holder can simply quit their job, whereas a H-1B's right to remain in the U.S. is tied to the job. So, H-1B holders tend to be more subservient employees, complaining less about long work hours, cumbersome work schedules, or not receiving certain benefits or promotion. Another weakness of H-1B is that it hampers promotionFact|date=May 2008. For example, an employee cannot be legally promoted into a managerial job (with higher salary) if his H-1B was issued for the role of a software engineer. Consequently, some H-1B holders stagnate at the same job level for several years, while citizens and green card holders get promoted instead.

Worker protection and law enforcement

For every H-1B petition filed with the USCIS, there must be included a Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. The LCA is designed to ensure that the wage offered to the non-immigrant worker must meet or exceed the "prevailing wage" in the area of employment. The LCA also contains an attestation section designed to prevent the program from being used to import foreign workers for the purpose of breaking a strike, or for the purpose of replacing U.S. citizen workers. Under the regulations, LCAs are a matter of public record. Corporations hiring H-1B workers are required to make these records available to any member of the public who requests to look at them. Copies of the relevant records are also available from various web sites, including the Department of Labor.

Theoretically, the LCA process appears to offer protection to both U.S. and H-1B workers. However, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office, enforcement limitations and procedural problems render these protections ineffective. [http://www.gao.gov/archive/2000/he00157.pdf United States General Accounting Office, H-1B Foreign Workers: Better Controls Needed to Help Employers and Protect Workers] Ultimately, the employer, not the Department of Labor, determines what source it will use to determine the prevailing wage for an offered position, and it may choose among a variety of competing surveys, including its own wage surveys, provided that such surveys follow certain defined rules and regulations.

The law specifically restricts the Department of Labor's approval process of LCAs to checking for "completeness and obvious inaccuracies".8 USC 1182 (n). In FY 2005, only about 800 LCAs were rejected out of over 300,000 submitted.

Recent changes to U.S. law

The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21) and the U.S. Department of Labor's PERM system for labor certification erased most of the earlier claimed arguments for H-1B's as indentured servants during the green card process. With PERM, labor certification processing times have been reduced to less than 90 days.

Because of AC21, the H-1B employee is free to change jobs if they have an I-485 application pending for six months and an approved I-140, if the position to which they are moving is substantially comparable to their current position. In some cases, if those labor certifications are withdrawn and replaced with PERM applications, processing times will improve, but the person will also lose their favorable priority date. In those cases, employers' incentive to attempt to lock in H-1B employees to a job by offering a green card is reduced, because the employer bears the high legal costs and fees associated with labor certification and I-140 processing, but the H-1B employee is still free to change jobs.

However, many people are ineligible to file I-485 at the current time due to the wide-spread retrogression in priority dates. Thus, they may well still be stuck with their sponsoring employer for many years. There are also many old labor certification cases pending under pre-PERM rules.

On May 25, 2006 the U.S. Senate passed immigration bill 2611 which contained several increases in the number of H-1B visas, including:
#raising the base quota from 65,000 to 115,000,
#Automatically increasing the base quota by 20% whenever it is reached with no provision for lowering it,
#Adding 6,800 visas for trade agreements separate from the base quota,
#Adding 20,000 visas for those with foreign graduate degrees,
#Raising from 20,000 to unlimited the number of visas for those with U.S. graduate degrees, and
#Making visas to non-profit organizations exempt from the quota. [ [http://www.ieeeusa.org/policy/issues/H1bvisa/index.html] ] [ [http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=2&vote=00157 U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote ] ] [ [http://news.zdnet.com/5208-3513-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=19462&messageID=375504&start=-1 H-1B visas hit roadblock in Congress | TalkBack on ZDNet ] ] However, as the House refused to consider the measure, it died in conference and no H-1B increase was approved in time for the elections.

The USCIS has announced that after completing a policy review that it was clarifying that to avoid H-1B quota limits, individuals who spent one year outside of U.S. and did not exhaust their entire six year term can choose to be re-admitted for “remainder” of initial six-year period without being subject to the H-1B cap.USCIS Interoffice Memorandum from Michael Aytes, Associate Director, Domestic Operations, to all Regional Directors and Service Center Directors, dated December 5, 2006]

The USCIS has also announced that after completing a policy review that it was clarifying that “any time spent in H-4 status will not count against the six-year maximum period of admission applicable to H-1B aliens.

On May 24, 2007, the Senate considered amendments to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill (S. 1348) [ [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.1348: Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress) ] ] including the Sanders Amendment to increase the H-1B Scholarship & Training Fee from $1500 to $8500 (for H-1B employers with more than 25 full time employees). The additional fee was to be used for training and scholarship programs and in addition to other existing fees. Senator Sanders listed the Teamsters Union and the AFL-CIO among supporters of his amendment. Without this amendment, Senator Sanders (I-VT) said, "skilled middle class and upper middle class Americans" would be hurt, and their wages would continue to be suppressed. Just prior to the vote, Senator Sanders announced that he had made changes to his amendment, dropping the fee for H-1B visas from the $8500 he proposed earlier, down to $5000. Following Senator Sanders’ announcement, Senators Kennedy and Specter expressed their support for the bill and the amendment passed by a vote of 59-35 [ [http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=110&session=1&vote=00179 U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote ] ] . Compete America, a coalition of U.S. tech companies, reported the passage of the Sanders amendment will "accelerate outsourcing and undermine U.S. economic growth."

imilar programs

In addition to H-1B visas, there are a variety of other visa categories which allow foreign workers to come into the U.S. to work for some period of time.

L-1 visas are issued to foreign employees of a corporation. Under recent rules, the foreign worker must have worked for the corporation for at least one year in the preceding three years prior to getting the visa. An L-1B visa is appropriate for nonimmigrant workers who are being temporarily transferred to the United States based on their specialized knowledge of the company's techniques and methodologies. An L-1A visa is for managers or executives who will either manage people or an essential function of the company. There is no requirement to pay prevailing wages for the L-1 visa holders. For Canadian residents, a special L visa category is available.

TN-1 visas are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and are issued to Canadian and Mexican citizens. [ [http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1274.html Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Worker] ] Formerly, they were also issued to third country citizens who had obtained permanent residency in Canada.Fact|date=February 2008 This procedure is called "touching base".Fact|date=February 2008 TN visas are only available to workers who fall into one of a pre-set list of occupations determined by the NAFTA treaty. There are specific [http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1274.html eligibility requirements] for the TN Visa.

E-3 visas are issued to citizens of Australia under the Australia free-trade treaty.

H-1B1 visas are issued to residents of Chile and Singapore under the amended NAFTA treaty.

One recent trend in work visas is that various countries attempt to get special preference for their nationals as part of treaty negotiations. Another trend is for changes in immigration law to be embedded in large Authorization or Omnibus bills to avoid the controversy that might accompany a separate vote.

H-2B: The H-2B nonimmigrant program permits employers to hire foreign workers to come to the U.S. and perform temporary nonagricultural work, which may be one-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent. There is a 66,000 per year limit on the number of foreign workers who may receive H-2B status

Alternatives to H-1B visa:
* [http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=3460194d3e88d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=91919c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD Green Card for medical doctors and physicians.]
**Pre-requisite: [http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=3460194d3e88d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=91919c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD National Interest Waiver.]
**Alternatively, a Medical Doctor or Physican may enter the U.S. for a temporary period through a temporary visa.
* [http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=3460194d3e88d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=91919c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD Green Cards] for [http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=c55878a814f0e010VgnVCM1000000ecd190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=48819c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD Nurses and Physical Therapists]
* [http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=3460194d3e88d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=91919c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD Employment Visa] for Professors and Researchers.

Dependents of H-1B visa holders

H-1B visa holders are allowed to bring their immediate family members (spouse and children under 21) to the United States under the H4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder may remain in the U.S. as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status. An H4 visa holder is not eligible to work in the U.S. and is not eligible for a Social Security number (SSN). An H4 Visa holder may attend school, obtain a driver's license and open a bank account while in the US. Some recent state regulations prohibit H-4 visa holders from obtaining a driver's license in cases where driver's licenses are no longer being issued on Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers alone and an SSN is required.

H-1B demographics


#United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, "Characteristics of Specialty Occupation Workers (H-1B)", for FY 2004 and FY 2005, November 2006.
#Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, [http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/exec/billg/speeches/2007/03-07Senate.mspx Testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.] Hearing "Strengthening American Competitiveness for the 21st Century". March 7, 2007
# Dr. Norman Matloff, [http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.real.html Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage] , Testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, April 1998, updated December 2002


ee also

* SKIL Bill
* Free trade debate
* Labor shortage
* Immigration Voice
* Programmers Guild

External links for H-1B information

* [http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1271.html U.S. Department of State information on H-1B visa]
* [http://www.gao.gov/new.items/he00157.pdf U.S. GAO Report on H-1B Problems, PDF format]

Abuse of the H-1B program

* [http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07173/796195-28.stm Pittsburgh law firm's immigration video sparks an Internet firestorm] , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 22, 2007
* [http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=199906044 "Lawmakers Request Investigation Into YouTube Video"] Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Lamar Smith ask the Labor Department to look into a video they say documents H-1B abuse by companies. "Information Week", June 21, 2007
* [http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411562_Salzman_Science.pdf Oct. 2007 study by Georgetown University] - The study raises questions about the use of test scores by visa-worker-seeking technology companies to claim that American citizens are not qualified.
* [http://www.desicrunch.com/Companies.aspx Reviews by employees] - Experiences of H1b employees hired from India by consulting companies.

Advocacy efforts

* [http://www.competeamerica.org/ Compete America] A pro- H-1B coalition.
* [http://www.immigrationnewsman.com ImmigrationNewsman] A website built by immigrant journalists that covers all aspects of H1-B visas and has a section called "H-1B World".
* [http://www.ImmigrationVoice.org/ www.ImmigrationVoice.org] Issues facing H-1B holders during the transition to Legal Permanent Residency
* [http://www.memp.pratt.duke.edu/downloads/americas_new_immigrant_entrepreneurs.pdf "America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs"] - A Duke University Study

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