Why this immigration Bill wants double the number of H-1B visas granted
The US is facing a severe shortage of skilled workers. Granting more H-1B visas could fix this. Source: Shutterstock

It’s known as the Immigration Innovation, or in short, the ‘I-Squared’ Act.

Its purpose is simple: Fill America’s severe shortage of workers highly specialised and trained in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (or STEM). A New American Report recently found that the US has a “persistent and dramatic shortage” of STEM workers – In 2016, there were 13 STEM jobs job postings online for every one unemployed STEM worker.

That means there are around 3 million more jobs than the number of available, trained professionals who could potentially fill them.

The I-Squared Act, sponsored by two Republican senators, aims to fix this by focusing on the H-1B visa program. The Bill aims to strengthen the US job market, put into action US President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” policy and tackle visa abuse concerns.

The H-1B visa programme allows US companies to employ foreign graduates in specialty occupations – Silicon Valley fills many of its high-skilled engineering positions via this programme.

American companies also use these visas to hire graduate-level workers, including those ie medicine, mathematics and information technology.

But the program has been accused of displacing American workers with lower-paid foreigners, used by unscrupulous outsourcing companies to fill non-specialised jobs, and even as a front for human smuggling.

It’s a problem that has made the Trump administration roll out a set of new policies to tighten the application and approval process, though critics have said they punish genuine H-1B visa applicants, rather than fixing the actual problem at hand.

Microsoft is one of the companies with the most H-1B visa approvals. Source: Shutterstock

Writing in CNN MoneyRichard Burke, president and CEO of global immigration and workforce mobility platform Envoy describes the I-Squared Bill as one with “compelling set of solutions” to these problems and to ensure the US remains a dominant economic force worldwide.

Here’s how it works:

  • Increase total number of available H-1B visas: The current number of visas available is now capped at 85,000. Under the Bill, another 110,000 visas will be made available if the vacancies remain unfulfilled.
  • Build a pathway for workers make a living with their families in the US: To improve H-1B visa holders’ quality of life, spouses for H-1B visa holders will be allowed to work.
  • Remove arbitrary per-country limits for green cards: H-1B visa holders’ children now lose their dependent status once they turn 21 and are forced to leave the US, leaving behind the only family and friends they have ever known. By for employment-based green cards and adjust caps for family-based green cards, it would remove this source of anxious uncertainty for these workers and their families.
  • Increase salary level paid to H-1B visa workers: This is to fix the problem of unscrupulous companies which have been accused of replacing American workers with lower-paid foreign workers. The Bill proposed two ways to do this: 1) raise minimum annual salary companies must pay H1-B workers from US$60,000 to US$100,000 and 2) expressly requiring companies to not replace American workers already in their positions with foreigners.
  • Use fees collected to retrain US workers: Application fees for H-1B visas and green cards related to the H-1B program will be used towards retraining US workers

Liked this? Then you’ll love these…

US suspends premium processing for H-1B visas. Again.

EB-5 visa: Why is it getting more popular than the H-1B?