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The H-1B Lottery: Other Options May Be in the Works

Posted August 25, 2016 - Articles

The H-1B visa program lets companies get temporary visas for foreign workers. These foreign workers can come to the United States and work for a limited period of time. The visas are non-immigrant visas and, in 2016, there were 85,000 available.

Demand significantly outpaced the number of H-1B visas for the past several years, necessitating the use of a lottery to determine what companies get the visas.  The chances of winning this lottery are estimated to be around one in three.

Unfortunately, the H-1B visa program has been criticized by both supporters and critics. Those in favor of the program argue expansion is necessary so more companies can bring in qualified foreign workers.

Those who are opposed to the H-1B visa program argue that it is taking jobs from U.S. citizens. Amidst the criticism, some lawmakers are working on proposals to change how the program works.  A Maryland work visa lawyer can provide explanations on updates to both businesses and foreign workers who may be interested in benefitting from H-1B visa use.

Alternatives to the H-1B Visa Lottery Are Under Consideration

Two lawmakers are currently proposing a shift in how the H-1B visa program is managed.  The lawmakers, Republican House Representative Darrell Issa and Democratic House Representative Zoe Lofgren believe the lottery program should be ended. Instead of simply awarding visas based on a lottery, Issa and Lofgren want a system in place that favors salary offers.  Under the proposed new program, employers who offer more generous salary packages would be put in the front of the line for hiring foreign workers.

The legislation is considered a work in progress, with no lawmakers yet willing to speak on record about the bill. However, the basic framework has become public knowledge. The proposed legislation would adopt a four-tier prevailing wage system that takes into account differences in worker pay based on region and based on the skill level of the job which the foreign workers would be doing. 

There is currently a prevailing wage system in place already, but the new legislation would give priority to employers who offer 100 percent or 200 percent above the prevailing wage level for a particular occupation.  The lottery scheme may not be entirely ended, as a percentage of H-1B visa petitions will likely still offer salaries at the bottom of the wage distribution list. 

The hope is that the new legislation would raise overall wages for H-1B visa workers. Not only would this provide for a better quality of life for foreign workers who come to live in the United States but it would also hopefully drive up wages for all workers. 

It is unclear whether the proposed legislation will ever make its way into a bill that is voted on or passed, but at least lawmakers are doing something to try to make the H-1B visa system better. Those interested in using the H-1B visa program to bring in foreign workers or to come and work within the United States should consult with a work visa lawyer at Miranda & Weisman to find out about any changes in the program moving forward.