US immigration bill facing H-1B test

A suggested amendment to the recently proposed US immigration bill could present a sticking point as the Senate prepares to vote on whether to pass the bill or not.

Earlier this week, a broad coalition of business groups wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee (which conducts hearings prior to the Senate votes) urging changes be made to the H-1B skilled visa programme.

Business Groups

Business Groups

While the number of H-1B visas available annually for foreign workers would be raised significantly by the immigration bill, labour groups believe that there is still too much red tape governing employers being able to employ workers from abroad.

The new bill proposes that employers will have to prove that they have advertised any vacancies adequately in America (for 30 days on the Department of Labour website), to ensure that US citizens get the first crack at any jobs.

However, a coalition of business groups which recently wrote to the judiciary panel urging changes, including the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and a number of major technology lobbying organisations, states that these rules and regulations will discourage many firms from using the visa programme to its full potential.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who actually tabled the proposals,warned that the tech industry could make the Senate’s passage of the sweeping immigration bill difficult if the committee doesn’t strike the right balance on the provisions for dealing with visas for foreign high-skilled workers.

“There’s a whole high-tech world that’s getting up in arms if we don’t do this right, and they alone could make this bill very difficult to pass,” the Senator said. “This area is a small one, but it’s an important one,” he said.

However, the country’s federation of labour organisations, the AFL-CIO, disagrees with the new proposals.

“The idea that you’re going to change the bill to deny American tech workers a shot at the jobs of the future – that’s not good politics, that’s not good policy and it isn’t going to pass,” said Jeff Hauser, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO.

“Our view is that technology workers in America who have invested in the skills of the future – as the tech industry wants them to do – they deserve a fair shot at the jobs of the future,” Hauser added.

In total, more than 300 amendments to the comprehensive immigration legislation have been proposed and they began to be debated by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. However, it would appear that the H-1B visa issue has the potential to present the biggest hurdle to the bill’s chances of being passed.