Two U.S. House lawmakers are involved in a dual-party effort to change how H-1B visas are allocated, moving away from a random lottery and using salary offers instead.
Today, the U.S. distributes 85,000 H-1B visas through a lottery, with the odds of winning roughly one-in-three based on current demand. There were 236,000 visa petitions submitted this year. This legislation envisions distributing wages in a way that won't tilt the H-1B visa to high-wage regions; it would keep a four-tier prevailing wage system, which accounts for pay differences by region and skill.
ISSA and Lofgren have been critical of H-1B wage rates. When it was disclosed that Southern California Edison workers were training their replacements, ISSA said the case "appears to be an example of precisely what the H-1B visa is not intended to be: a program to simply replace American workers, overall with cheap labor from overseas."
The bill would also raise the $60,000 salary that creates an exemption for H-1B dependent firms (mostly IT services firms that offshore work). The new wage level hasn't been set. H-1B-dependent firms can displace U.S. workers, provided they pay at least that wage. A master's degree also creates an exemption, but that would be eliminated.
The bill also envisions eliminating per-country caps on green cards for advanced degree holders. The government sets a cap of 140,000 employment-based green cards a year, with no more than 7% from any single country. This has led to long waiting times for people from China and India, where demand is the highest.
In the emerging proposal, what matters, is the wage level and whether the employer is paying above it. Employers offering 100% or 200% over prevailing wage level will be in the strongest position to get a visa.