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The effect H-1B visa program reforms could have on US businesses

Since its creation by the Immigration Act of 1990, the H1-B visa program has given skilled workers in other countries the opportunity to temporarily work here in the United States.

In fact, according to an April Pew Research Center article, between fiscal years 2001 and 2015, the program distributed nearly 1.8 million H-1B visas to foreign workers.

As of late, the program has fallen under scrutiny by the Trump Administration. It claims that some U.S. companies are abusing the system by "[replacing] American workers with cheaper foreign labor," states an April New York Times article. Technology companies are considered the biggest offenders because of the high number of H-1B visa applications requested by them each year.

How will the program change?

While we are still a long ways away from a complete overhaul of the system, some changes have already been made that could impact U.S. businesses.

Just this month the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that entry-level computer programming jobs will no longer qualify as "specialty occupations." The Justice Department is also taking steps to reform the H-1B visa program by warning companies that it will now take a closer look at employers who "[show] a preference for hiring H-1B workers instead of Americans."

Future changes may include higher fees for H-1B visas and the elimination of the random visa lottery, just to name a few.

The impact to immigrants and businesses

Immigrants who are likely to be most affected by a reform of the program are people from India. As the Pew Research article explains, in the fiscal years between 2001 and 2015, India received roughly 50 percent of the H-1B visas for first-time employment. Other countries that could be significantly impacted are China, Canada, South Korea and the Philippines who all received large shares of visas during this time.

Businesses that rely on the H-1B visa program to fill positions they cannot find American workers for could see operations negatively impacted if the Trump Administration finalizes changes to the program. There is no telling at this time, however, what that impact will be or what kind of problems it could create later on.

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