H-1B Visa Filing Season & Congressional Update

H-1B Professional Worker Update6940343109_18689b760a_o_x

Today’s post is about the H-1B Professional “Specialty” Worker visa updates and the H-1B “filing season”. This temporary visa category is used by US businesses to bring foreign nationals to work in positions that require at least a bachelor’s degree or higher (or the equivalent of education and work experience) in a specific field. US employers must pay each H-1B worker at least the prevailing wage for the job offered or face significant fines from the US Department of Labor. In addition, the US employer must pay all the expenses, including US government filing fees and legal fees that could add up to the thousands of dollars for each H-1B worker the employer sponsors. For a description of the process to obtain an H-1B visa please see my web site page on the H-1B visa.

One of my earliest posts was about the history of the H-1B filing season.  As you may know, a professional worker may obtain an H-1B visa to work in the US only if he or she has a US employer to sponsor the visa. If you have a job offer from a US employer to work in a professional position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree or higher, the employer must have a petition on file for you with the US Citizenship & Immigration Service in the first week of April for you to possibly have an H-1B visa beginning on October 1, 2015. Please call my office at +44 (0)20 7092 6830 to book a consultation regarding a possible H-1B visa petition.

H-1B Visa Update:

On January 13, 2015 Senator Orrin Hatch along with Senators  Klobuchar, Rubio, Coons, Flake and Blumenthal introduced a bipartisan High-Skilled Immigration Bill called the I-Squared Act of 2015 which could make the following changes to the Immigration & Nationality Act:

Employment-Based Nonimmigrant H-1B Visas

  • Increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 Currently there is a cap of 60,000 new H-1B cap-subject visas available each year which become oversubscribed usually in the first week of April which is the earliest employers may file petitions for their prospective foreign university-educated employees.
  • Allow the cap to go up (but not above 195,000) within any fiscal year where early filings exceed cap and require the cap to go down in a following fiscal year (but not below 115,000) if usage at the end of any fiscal year is below that particular year’s cap
  • Uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (Currently limited to 20,000 per year)
  • Authorize employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders Currently, dependent spouses cannot obtain work authorization to work while they are in the US with the H-1B visa employee spouses.
  • Increase worker mobility by establishing a grace period during which foreign workers can change jobs and not be out of status and restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O and P nonimmigrant visa categories Currently, an H-1B visa holder must leave the US immediately if they are no longer employed by the employer who sponsored them for their H-1B visa.

Student Visas

  •  Allow dual intent for foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities to provide the certainty they need to ensure their future in the United States “Dual intent” allows those applying for Student visas to still be eligible for a student visa even if they intend to work permanently in the US.

Green Cards

  • Enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used, and continue this policy going forward through the roll-over of unused green cards in future fiscal years to the following fiscal year
  • Exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:
    • Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
    • U.S. STEM advance degree holders
    • Persons with extraordinary ability
    • Outstanding professors and researchers
    • Eliminate annual per-country limits for employment based visa petitioners and adjust per-country caps for family-based immigrant visas 

U.S. STEM Education & Worker Retraining Initiative

  • Reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards; use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states

These changes are certainly not law yet but if passed through Congress, it will be a major change for US businesses that need highly-educated workers to help the US economy grow.

This posting should not be used as legal advice. If you require specific advice regarding your or your prospective employee’s eligibility for an H-1B, please call my office to book a consultation at +44 (0)20 7092 6830 in the UK or +1 312 361-0581 in the US.