Understanding the Changes in the H-1B Visa Reform Bill

Early in 2022, the Senate introduced legislation intended to reform the H-1B and L-1 visa programs and address certain drawbacks, particularly fraud and abuse, in both systems. 

This became known as the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act. Designed to protect American workers and visa beneficiaries, this act has far-reaching consequences. How will it affect you as an H-1B employer or employee? Read on to find out.

The 2007 H-1B Visa Bill in Summary

The first H-1B visa category was created in 1990. Since then, various revisions have been designed to fix issues as they arise. These changes have been in response to the criticism and debates about the legitimacy and validity of the program and whether it displaced American workers, adversely impacted the economy, or allowed for abuse of the system.

One of the most well-known changes with the institution of a capped amount of visas. Currently, this number is limited to 65,000 petitions granted each year, with 20,000 extra allotted for those with advanced degrees.

In 2007, a reformation of the act took place with changes strongly designed to protect American workers. At that time, the law included provisions such as:

●     Employers hiring a large percentage of H-1B visa holders must pledge that they’ve used multiple avenues to attempt to hire American citizens before extending their search to foreign workers. The 2007 changes required all employers to make this attempt and pledge before hiring an H-1B beneficiary.

●     The 2007 bill required that employers must advertise a job opening for 30 days on a Department of Labor (DOL) job search website and that the DOL must post H-1B job opening summaries.

●     This bill instituted the requirement that employers could not advertise jobs as “for H-1B holders only.”

●     Employers were prohibited from hiring H-1B employees and then outsourcing them to other companies.

●     Companies could not hire more than 50% of their employees as H-1B holders.

●     The DOL was given the ability to randomly audit any company using the H-1B program.

Still, even with these revisions, the argument remained that the Department of Labor’s authority over the H-1B program is limited, and fraud and abuse of the system continue to be prevalent.

2022’s Reforms of the H-1B Visa Program

Although at its core, the H-1B and L-1 visa nonimmigrant programs are designed to help the American economy, they are both hot political topics. Loopholes remain, and there are those who would take advantage of them to hire fraudulently or misrepresent themselves to obtain H-1B visa status.

The H-1B and L-1 visa programs are supposed to complement the already highly-skilled workers in the United States. Yet, many people are concerned that employers are using it to replace American citizens for cheaper foreign labor. Skilled foreign workers are essential in the job market, filling openings that would otherwise remain empty. But the American workers must be protected.

The reform bill of 2022 focuses on protecting H-1B and L-1 visa holders and American citizens. Companies that have relied on the legal loopholes to hire and outsource foreign workers, exploiting the system and eroding the American economy, are effectively limited due to the new legislation.

The new H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act required USCIS to prioritize the annual allocation of visas by putting the top STEM advanced degree students with US education at the top of the list. Those petitioners with valuable skills or receiving the highest wages will also receive priority allocations. This is at odds with the previous random lottery selections.

In addition to this major change, the 2022 reform act includes provisions such as:

●     A stricter requirement for the DOL to review petitions to check for signs of fraud or misrepresentation.

●     The change in H-1B worker requirements to include a bachelor’s degree that meets the specialty occupation requirements (no “relevant experience” is allowed to replace this, as it was previously).

●     Aliens classifiable in certain H-1B categories can no longer obtain a B-1 (temporary business visitor) status.

●     L-1 workers must receive a waiver to be stationed with an employer who is not the original petitioning employer.

●     Aliens cannot receive an L-1 visa if they have received two or more in the past two years.

●     The L-1 worker minimum wage must be set at the highest of certain amounts (the median wage for the area of employment).

The bill’s purpose is to expand the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor authority to enforce these laws and require DHS to annually audit employers with a certain percentage of H-1B holders.

What’s Next?

How do these changes affect you as an H-1B employer or employee? The best way to find out for sure is to talk to an immigration lawyer, like Visa2US. 

If you already employ H-1B beneficiaries, you must understand the changes to know what to expect when audited. If you’re an H-1B visa holder or attempting to receive your document, these changes make navigating an already complex system more challenging.

With Visa2US by your side, you can take the hassle out of obtaining and keeping your H-1B document or employee. Let us take the guesswork out of the reform bill for you, so you can focus on more important things, like furthering your career and your business.

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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.