The Trump administration is proposing a hike in the H-1B visa application fee to increase funding for the expansion of an apprentice programme, which trains American youths in technology related activities, Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta told US lawmakers.
Testifying before a Congressional committee on annual budget of the Department of Labour for the fiscal year 2020 beginning October 1, 2019, Acosta, however, did not give details of the proposed increase in H-1B filing fee and as to which categories of applicants it would be enforced on.
But given past experience, the Indian IT companies, which account for a large number of H-1B applications, are likely to face the additional financial burden because of this proposed increase in H-1B filing fees.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
Arguing that foreigners hurt American workers by competing for jobs and driving down wages, the Trump administration has tighten the noose around the H-1B visa programme. The Seattle Times on Monday reported that last year immigration officials denied nearly one out of every four requests for new visas for skilled foreign workers.
In FY 2020, the Department's budget includes USD 160 million to continue our expansion of apprenticeship programmes, along with a proposal to increase H-1B fee revenues to fund additional apprenticeship activities, Acosta said in his testimony on May 2 before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labour, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
Acosta told lawmakers that last year the Department of Labour had launched the first-ever sector-based apprenticeship grant funding opportunity to invest USD 150 million to expand apprenticeships in those in-demand industry sectors most often filled by individuals on H-1B visas, such as information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing.
This grant funding opportunity introduced an innovative approach: a 35 percent private-sector match requirement. This brings the total investment to USD 202.5 million, USD 57.7 million coming from the private sector, he said.
"As a result of this private sector match requirement, educators have a greater incentive to join with industry to ensure curricula address the needs of our ever-changing workplace, investing in the latest technologies and techniques, and providing more in-demand opportunities for Americans, Acosta said.
On July 18 last year, the Department of Labour had announced USD 150 million in H-1B funds to support sector-based approaches to expanding apprenticeships on a national scale in key industry sectors.
The focus is on industries reliant on H-1B visas. It aims at expanding apprenticeships and increase the level of apprenticeship activity among a range of new employers within these industries, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses.
Acosta also told lawmakers that the Labour Department has also made changes to the H-1B application forms to ensure greater transparency and better protect American workers from employers seeking to misuse the programme.
In fiscal 2018, the Department concluded 649 non-immigrant visa programme cases and found violations in 553 of those cases.
In a news story, Breitbart News said that every year, more than 100,000 foreign workers are brought to the US on the H-1B visa and are allowed to stay for up to six years. There are about 650,000 H-1B visa foreign workers in the US at any given moment, it added.
"Let's put our citizens first and protect US workers and wages. Hard-working and highly-skilled American men and women share their stories about H-1B visa fraud and abuse, Congressman Paul Gosar said.