GOP bill could double number of available H-1B visas, promote STEM training
- U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are co-sponsors of a bill that would increase availability of H-1B visas to industries with labor shortages and bring a slew of reforms to the country's high-skilled immigration laws.
- The bill would reform the H-1B visa program to prevent fraud and keep employers from outsourcing jobs and under-cutting American workers' wages, says Hatch. And high-skilled workers would have greater access to green cards, thus keeping highly-skilled talent in the U.S.
- A key measure of the proposal would grant new funding for training in science, engineering, mathematics and technology, or STEM, through H-1B visa fees, amounting to $1 billion in funds. The bill has support from Microsoft, Facebook and other members of the Internet Association.
A GOP-sponsored bill that might give more H-1B visas and green cards to high-skilled foreign workers would have seemed unlikely a year ago, given the Trump administration's "Hire American" immigration policy. But the Hatch-Flake proposal may be a direct response to the warnings about U.S. STEM competitiveness in a job seeker's market thanks to loud industry complaints about the labor shortage.
Currently, the H-1B cap is 85,000 — 65,000 plus 20,000 for workers with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. This proposal would up the regular cap to 85,000 and uncap the advanced-degree pool. It also would allow for an extra 110,000 visas if needed.
A bonus of the proposed legislation is the funding for STEM training. On their own, employers have sought to close the skills gap by designing their own training curricula, as Microsoft and Linux did, or teaming up with colleges and universities to develop degree programs. The bill's funding could help support more training partnerships, and thus create stronger talent pipelines for employers nationwide.