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New restrictions on the horizon for H-1B visa holders

Obtaining a visa to live and work in the United States has rarely been as competitive or difficult to obtain as it is now, and the path just got even a little narrower for H-1B visa holders.

For highly skilled foreign nationals who are here either studying or hoping to work for a U.S. employer under a “specialty occupation” status, convincing an employer to hire them at a higher pay scale than their American co-workers under new guidelines may make it almost impossible.

New DHS regulations for employers

According to Forbes Magazine, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has just implemented new regulations that change the definition of workers as well as students who are in the United States under an H-1B visa. These new rules change the relationship of specialty occupation employees to their employers, as well as restricting the approvals of visas to one year in some cases.

Under a new formula, the Department of Labor (DOL) is mandating that employers hire H-1B holders according to four levels of wages for each occupation, regardless of experience or industry-wide competitive salaries. By the new formula, an H-1B visa holder hired as a software developer in Chicago, for example, would be offered a Level 1 wage scale of 30% over the previous DOL prevailing wage. At the same time, private wages of American co-workers remain the same.

This makes it almost impossible for an employer to comply both with the new DOL regulations and federal and state laws that require equal pay regardless of nationality.

Creating restrictions for H-1B employees in customer service

Employers who send H-1B holders to third-party sites now must face new requirements to establish worker status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that such workers be supervised or else they will not be considered to be in an employee-employer relationship with their company.

The paperwork has also increased, as the employer must now produce contracts, work orders and other substantiating evidence every time the H-1B employee is sent off-site.

Specialty occupation employees in Chicago

Illinois is ranked fifth in the nation for H-1B applications, and the city of Chicago has the 7th largest population of H-1B holders. If you have applied or plan to apply for a visa to study or work, it helps to understand U.S. immigration law and how it is changing. Having skilled representation to analyze your H-1B visa status or potential case can keep you informed of your options.

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