Recent GAO Report Addresses H1B Visa Program
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 17, 2011 – The United States Government Accountability Office recently completed a comprehensive study of the H-1B visa program. Congress asked the GAO to investigate several aspects of the H-1B program to ensure that the program was serving its purpose.
The H-1B program allows U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. Congress asked the GAO to examine the employer demand for H-1B workers and how the cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year affects employers’ bottom lines and their ability to maintain their business in the U.S., rather than shuttering and relocating to foreign countries. Congress also asked the GAO to study H-1B worker characteristics, the potential impact of raising the 65,000-visa cap and how well the H-1B requirements protect U.S. workers.
The study found that demand for H-1B workers exceeded the 65,000-visa cap. A small group of employers made up a large percent of businesses applying for H-1B visas, with 1 percent of businesses requesting over one quarter of H-1B allotment.
The report also found that H-1B employees generally earn favorable salaries.
“When comparing reported U.S. worker salaries to H-1B workers in the same fields and age groups, the GAO reported that the H-1B workers earned either the same or more than similarly employed U.S. workers,” said Dallas immigration attorney Stewart Rabinowitz of the firm Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz. “This finding undercuts H-1B opponents’ contention that US employers hire H-1B workers because such workers will and do work for lower wages than U.S. workers.”
Some employers reported to the GAO that the cap resulted in increased costs. When the cap was hit, small firms reported that they had to fill their positions with different candidates, costing them delays and some economic losses. Some employers also reported that the H-1B lottery process that goes into effect when the cap is reached was unfavorable, as it did not allow them to prioritize candidates if they submitted more than one position.
“Numerical limitations on the H-1B visa classification, according to the GAO, affected certain U.S. employers with research and development centers abroad. Better than 25 percent of U.S. employers responded that the H-1B program in its current confiuration played an important role in setting up those centers abroad, based in part, on the uncertainty of obtaining H-1B visas for needed talent in the U.S.,” Rabinowitz said.
Upon completion of the study, GAO recommended that Congress re-examine provisions of the H-1B program and attempt to improve efficiency, flexibility and monitoring.
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Dallas, Texas 75254
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