WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) are preparing to introduce legislation to Congress which would eliminate the H-1B visa lottery, and would also be rid of the country’s caps on Green Cards for those who hold advanced college degrees, two programs that have led to long waiting lines for people from India and China.
Currently, the U.S. government caps the amount of employment-based Green Cards that can be distributed each year at 140,000, with no more than seven percent from any given country. This has left many from India and China facing a waitlist, where the demand is highest.
Both Lofgren and Issa have been highly critical of the H-1B program’s wage rates — Southern California Edison, a utilities company, disclosed workers were training their replacements, leading Issa to opine the program “appears to be an example of precisely what the H-1B visa is not intended to be: a program to simply replace American workers en masse with cheap labor from overseas.”
“We can’t have people coming in an undercutting the American educated workforce,” Lofgren has been quoted as saying within recent years.
Today, the U.S. distributes its 85,000 H-1B visas through a lottery system, with the odds of winning being roughly one-in-three based on current demand. There were 236,000 visa petitions submitted this year.
The proposed legislation envisions distributing wages in a way that won’t tilt the H-1B visa to high-wage regions, such as Silicon Valley, Seattle and the Northeast corridor. It would keep a four-tier prevailing wage system, which accounts for pay differences by region and skill.
For example, the prevailing wage for a Level 1 database administrator in Los Angeles — someone with basic, entry-level skills — is $57,616. But the wage for a Level 4 employee, someone who is experienced and fully competent, is $108,992. In comparison, the prevailing wage for the same Level 1 employee in the state of Kentucky is $41,115 and $87,318 at Level 4 — $12,000 and $22,000 less than Los Angeles, respectively.
Lofgren and Issa’s proposal emphasizes a focus on wage levels — employers offering 100% or 200% over prevailing wage level will be in the strongest position to get a visa.
The bill would also raise the $60,000 salary that creates an exemption for H-1B dependent firms — mostly offshore IT service firms. Though the new wage level has yet to be set or determined, H-1B-dependent firms would be extended the courtesy of displacing U.S. workers, provided they pay at least the set wage. A master’s degree also creates an exemption, but that would be eliminated.