No exemption for companies seeking candidates with master’s degree.
New legislation introduced by immigration hardliner Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) may impact Indian IT service companies – if it gets enough bipartisan support to clear both the House and Senate. The new legislation makes it mandatory for all companies hiring a foreign worker on an H-1B visa to pay a minimum salary of $100,000 annually and to advertise to get an American worker first, despite a potential H-1B candidate having a relevant master’s degree.
Issa’s proposal comes after Southern California Edison Co. laid off about 400 employees in early 2015 and brought in workers through consulting companies, including from India.
“It was pretty easy to see that it wasn’t the intent of H-1B, which is to make up for shortage when you cannot find enough labor at any price,” Issa was quoted as saying by The Chicago Tribune.
Edison said at the time of the layoffs that it was “not hiring H-1B workers to replace displaced employees. Any H-1B visa workers SCE does hire for its own workforce are paid a wage comparable to SCE’s domestic workforce.”
Companies that have a certain proportion of H-1B employees — 15 percent or higher for companies with more than 50 employees — must submit paperwork with H-1B applications showing they advertised the job to American workers and considered their applications. Currently, employers can be exempted from that paperwork if the potential employee holds a master’s degree or is paid at least $60,000 annually.
Issa’s bill would remove the exemption for workers with a master’s degree and would increase the minimum salary needed for an exemption to $100,000 annually.
No hearing has been scheduled yet for Issa’s bill. It does have bipartisan support, the Tribune reported. Co-sponsors include four lawmakers from California, all of them from San Diego County: Democratic Reps. Scott Peters, Juan Vargas and Susan Davis and Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter.
In 2015, Los Angeles had 4,886 H-1B workers with an average salary of $79,278, according to a private website, Myvisajobs.com, which compiles employer applications to the federal government.
Almost 4,300 people were certified to work in San Diego on H-1B visas last year, according to data from the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. Qualcomm Technologies Inc. had the most such employees, 953, with an average annual salary of $102,095. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., one of the consulting groups involved in the Edison controversy, was second with 103 employees certified for H-1B visas with an average annual salary of $74,559.
Matt Rifat, president of Alcala Labs, said he hired one employee through an H-1B visa for the company last year. He said Alcala recruited for 18 months for a geneticist and, after finding no one, pursued and hired an Austrian geneticist in 2015, the Tribune reported.
“For the scientific and biotech community, it’s really valuable, and, in my experience, it’s not being abused,” Rifat said of the H-1B program. “Had an American shown up with those qualifications, we would’ve hired them.”