India disproportionately benefits from H-1B scheme

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Congressman Darrell Issa calls for increase in the minimum salary for eligibility

Indian companies and workers are disproportionately gaining from the current method of allocation of H-1B visas and this is a distortion of the program, said a U.S lawmaker at the forefront of an ongoing campaign against alleged abuse of the visa program.

The current system of selecting H-1B visa recipients is neither fair nor efficient, and it must be replaced, said Congressman Darrell Issa, who has recently introduced a Bill that proposes to raise the minimum salary of H-1B employees to $1,00,000 per year from the current level of $60,000.

Speaking at an event organised by the Atlantic Council on Monday, the California Republican was not sure if his Bill will be passed by the legislature, but said: “The President supports the Bill and we will have strong support in the Senate.”

A distortion

“We can’t have 75% of a programme going to Indian-owned, Indian-operated companies and Indian employees and not say that this is a distortion. At the end of these reforms, will this programme still disproportionately favour countries that are willing to let go of their high-skilled workers and come here? Yes. Will it be as extreme as it is now? No,” the lawmaker said.

The Congressman had proposed to expand the number of visas in a Bill in 2013, but he said that proposal is not desirable now. “We were then saying that we are pushing to get the best and the brightest to the country. We had a lot of good people going away even after graduating from U.S. universities, including the medical doctors,” he said adding that due to the abuse of the programme, American people have lost confidence in it.

Mr. Issa said once there are enough people being recruited under higher salaries proposed in the Bill, the proposal to expand the programme could be considered.

“By raising the salary to a level more in-line with the average American salary for these positions, it would help cut down on abuse and ensure these positions remain available for companies who truly need them,” he said.

“The demand for H1-B is oversubscribed by several times every year. But the current levels of salary are way too low a price for a way too valuable product. Who gets that valuable resource should be based on a fairer mechanism,” he said, adding that the selection must move to a bidding system.

Bidding system

The current Bill does not propose that but in the future Mr. Issa would be working towards legislation that mandates bidding. “It can be done at multiple stages. A company that is willing to pay, say $2,00,000 will get the first lot of visas, and then it could come cheaper to the next lot,” he said.

Asked whether the restrictions that he proposes could negatively impact the U.S. economy, the lawmaker said: “The impact on economy can only be positive… Raising the salary floor only raises the quality of the worker that comes into the country through this programme,” he said.

The lawmaker said the current cap of 65,000 is an arbitrary number that needs to be removed. “We need to change the system from having an arbitrary number to a number that reflects the actual demand in a given year,” he said, adding that some years when the demand is higher it could be raised and when there is recession, the numbers could be reduced.

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