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Saturday, January 14, 2017

United States Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com)

 This is a very good thing:

President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office.

 From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. 

For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. 

One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. 

The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas.

 If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. 

Right now, the minimum is $60,000. 

The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers.

 In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program.

 (The 10th is Microsoft.) 

The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. 

"We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "

At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers."

The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. 

The visas are awarded by lottery each year. 

Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.

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