Changes for H-1B? | Weinstock Immigration Lawyers | Expert Advice & Representation in Immigration Law

Pay for H-1B workers may increase if a draft bill authored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) gets the bipartisan backing it will need to pass Congress.
The bill relies on salary to distribute the visas. Firms that pay salaries well above the prevailing wage will have the best chance of getting a visa.
The “High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2015” has been in the works since last year, is already drafted and appears to be complete. But that doesn’t mean it will actually be introduced. Both sides continue to talk and there are no immediate plans to move forward on the legislation.
The H-1B visa is distributed via a lottery because requests for visas exceed the annual 85,000-visa cap. While the bill doesn’t eliminate the lottery in its entirety, it minimizes its importance.
The proposal is designed to encourage employers to pay 150% or 200% of the prevailing wage level. These employers will probably be assured of visa approval.
Wages alone don’t set a priority in the visa distribution. Priority is given first to employers “that hire mainly U.S. workers.” Next in line are H-1B dependent employers.
There are different thresholds for determining dependency, but for large users a dependent employer is someone with 15% or more of their employees on temporary visas.
The legislation sets aside 20% of the annual allocation of H-1B visas to firms with 50 or fewer employees. Small and start-up businesses would not be subject to the wage-based allocation.
For H-1B-dependent employers, the bill changes the $60,000 salary exemption level to a formula that would raise the minimum to about $130,000, based on the 35th percentile above the median for the most recent national annual wage for Computer and Mathematical Occupations.
H-1B dependent firms pay salaries of at least $60,000 – a figure set in 1998 – to get an exemption from rules that bar them from displacing a U.S. worker. The bill also eliminates the master’s degree exemption.
But the legislation also includes what may be a new loophole by excluding workers from this higher wage if their employer has petitioned for permanent residence or a green card.
The bill also eliminates per-country caps on green cards. Employment-based green cards are capped at 140,000 a year, with no more than 7% from any one country. Such a move would help green card applicants in China and India, in particular, who make up the majority of those seeking permanent residency.