Current Issues in H-1B Visas

HR Resource
March 6, 2013 — 1,998 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

An H-1B, a non-immigrant visa, is provided to the foreign professionals for work authorization. They must specifically have some sort of highly specialized knowledge in their field and a bachelor's degree or equivalent as a minimum qualification. The fields could be architecture, mathematics, engineering, social sciences, physical sciences, health and medicine, biotechnology, education, arts, theology, law, business specialties.

Why there is a Need for Reforms

One issue that has been lost in the debate is the increasing need for highly skilled workers in the US. The system that manages H-1B visas puts a strict 65000 per year limit on visas provided to such skilled workers. This means many highly skilled foreign workers are compelled to look for employment in countries other than the US.

Along with several colleagues, Sen. Orrin Hatch recently introduced a legislation called Immigration Innovation Act which would bring a much needed change to the visa system and increase the economic benefit of the US. It will increase the yearly cap on highly skilled workers provided with H-1B visas to 115,000, from the current 65000, and will also provide some level of flexibility which allows for an increased cap if there is a demand for labor in the US. This will also remove the cap on high-skilled workers who have advanced degrees, which is currently fixed at 20,000 per year.

High-skilled immigrant workers play an integral part in the growth of the American economy. Immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a new venture than native-born Americans, and these new ventures will be responsible for all the new jobs created. If the H-1B visa system is not reformed, America could lose potential investors, entrepreneurs, and job creators.

The Process

The first step to getting the H-1B visa process is an application that requests the permission for foreign workers to temporarily work in the United States. This has to be filed by the employer hiring them. This petition is then examined by the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service). If everything on the application is in order, then the Immigration and Naturalization Service approves the application. Once the application is approved, the H-1B worker is considered as a beneficiary. He can then begin working in the United States.

Limitations of the Current Process

There are a few limitations in the current procedure. H-1B visa is specific to the employer. The employee who is the beneficiary can only work for the employer who is hiring him/her and got the petition approved. It is possible to transfer the H-1B status as long as a new petition is filed by the new employer. If two or more employers are hiring the same foreign worker, separate petitions must be filed by each employer. H-1B visa is approved initially for 3 years with a possible extension of an additional 3 years. To stay beyond the 6-year period, the worker has to take steps to begin the process of permanent residency, as the visa won't be extended a second time.

HR Resource