Perhaps anticipating an Executive Order from the White House on business immigration reforms, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.), who represents Silicon Valley, has introduced a bill that calls for many reforms.
The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, similar to a bill introduced by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Cal.), raises wage levels related to certain H-1B visas. For H-1B-dependent employers, it eliminates the Master’s Degree exemption and raises the minimum wage for exemption from $60,000 to $130,000 – essentially making it more difficult for H-1B-dependent employers to hire H-1B workers who are not highly skilled and highly paid.
The Act also raises prevailing wages by scaling back the levels of wages from four to three. It allocates limited H-1B visas on the basis of wage – putting the highest paid workers at the top of list, but also sets aside 20 percent for small employers (those with fewer than 50 employees).
A cost-reduction provision clarifies that a change in worksite would not require an amended H petition as long as a new Labor Condition Application (LCA) is secured.
Representative Lofgren’s bill also adds protections for H-1B workers: requiring employers to provide H-1B visa holders with copies of their petitions (absent confidential business information) and protecting employees from contractual liquidated damages provisions for early resignations.
For foreign nationals seeking permanent residence status, the bill provides portability and general employment and travel authorization (AP/EAD) to those who have approved I-140 immigrant visa petitions that have been approved for at least 180 days – even if they are not “current.” The bill also would change the per country percentage cap for employment-based preference visas over a period of years – making waits for Green Cards shorter for those from countries that are currently over-subscribed.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) plans to introduce a bill to improve the H-1B and L-1 programs that includes protections for U.S. workers, as well as visa holders. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have introduced a bi-partisan H-1B Reform Bill.
We will provide update as these bills make their way through the legislative process.