This week Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, introduced amendments to the Senate’s immigration legislation that target high-skilled workers. The amendments are part of a broader immigration reform package that’s pending in Congress and we’re glad high-skilled workers aren’t being overlooked in the process.
Earlier this year (and we're only on day 11!) reports surfaced that the administration was planning to cut the option for H-1B renewals beyond six years, regardless of whether visa holders were in the application process for a permanent residency green card. This proposal is guided by Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" initiative. Under the current framework, H-1B visa holders can apply for an extension up to six years (two, three year terms) and if they have a pending green card application, they can apply for an additional extension.
Late last week the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quietly announced plans to revoke H-4 visas. Since 2015, the H-4 visa has allowed spouses of H-1B visa holders seeking permanent residency to work in the U.S. This rule has especially benefited the tech community since many of the high-skilled H-1B visas are awarded to programmers, software engineers, and other high-skilled technology and IT professionals.
Today the House Judiciary Committee passed the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act, HR 170, which aims to curb companies from abusing the H1B visa system. Alliance members and tech employers rely on H1B employees who bring valuable skills from foreign countries. But companies that hire large numbers of H1B-dependent employees, often underpaying them market rate salaries, make the already tough visa system more cumbersome and difficult for employers to find quality, high skilled talent they need to innovate and compete.
Most recently the Trump administration is flying under the radar with its latest policy memorandum released late Monday that will make extending employment visas significantly more difficult. Under current rules, US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers exercise less scrutiny for applicants seeking a visa extension compared to new visa candidates -- if you were a good candidate the first time, your initial merits are considered when extending the visa. But under the new guidelines, officers are instructed to apply the same level of scrutiny to all applications.