Will We See Changes to the H-1B Program Before the New Year?

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Will We See Changes to the H-1B Program Before the New Year?

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Contributed by Koby Polaski, Senior Attorney

In early October, President Obama announced his plans to make the H-1B system “more efficient” through executive action. In a White House transcript, Obama specifically said, “What I’ve committed to is, is that assuming Congress doesn’t act, I will use all the executive authority that I legally have in order to make fixes in some of the system. And that includes potentially making the H-1B system that is often used by tech companies and some of the other elements of our legal immigration system more efficient so we can encourage more folks to stay here.”

This announcement drew criticism from some Republican senators who argue that Obama should instead focus on protecting US workers. Senator Grassley is a leading critic who contends that all employers should be required to attest that they aren’t displacing or replacing US workers with foreign workers. H-1B using companies aren’t required to first offer an available job to a US worker.

On the opposing side, urging Obama to exercise the full force of his executive power in this area, are companies like Microsoft. Microsoft is arguably the leading corporate critic of our country’s current H-1B program. Microsoft’s situation portrays clearly the current problems with the H-1B system. Because of the H-1B cap and lottery, H-1B visas are hard to come by, and petitioning employers face high rejection rates. For example, Microsoft will apply for roughly 1,000 H-1B visas in the coming fiscal year, and will only get about 50{b6b8f04f7bd4b863c4cfed8339fd19419bda3e071c79bc5ac8c810cb9c52e30f} of those.

Unfortunately, because Obama cannot raise the H-1B cap, it is hard to imagine what action he can take that will create the lasting and drastic changes we need.

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