For U.S. companies seeking to obtain visas for foreign workers.
“Now that would have a profound effect on people who were hoping to get, if you will, people at a lower salary level because the goal that we had agreed to was that there would be multiple rounds and the first round would take the top, let’s say 10 or 20 percent, based on how much you were bidding to pay and that would mean that if you came in with a $200,000 worker, you were going to get them in the first round,” Issa said during a discussion about reforming the H1B visa process at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
“A few weeks or month later there would be a second round and in the second round, if everyone bid $180,000, the $60,000 would never get there and I think Zoe [Lofgren] and I believe that if you were looking at scarce resources and you wanted to allocate it most appropriately, if you will, an auction system is not a bad way to go,” he added.
U.S. companies must sponsor immigrants seeking H1B visas to work in the U.S. The visas are currently issued to applicants who meet certain requirements. United States Citizen and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issues the visas through a lottery system. The annual cap for the number of H1B visas is 65,000.
Issa introduced a bill that would raise the minimum salary requirement for H1B foreign workers to $100,000 from $60,000. His auction idea is not included in that legislation.
“These slots for employers are worth different amounts. Why wouldn’t we find the highest bidder? Now this bill doesn’t do that. It doesn’t go that far but I think when we look at who the 1.2 million people that get to come to be Americans broadly, we would like to have it be, if you will, a little bit of a bidding process and a little less of a lottery process. Now, that doesn’t mean if someone is fleeing tyranny, persecution or maybe death, we just see how much they could afford to be paid, but it does mean that out of the 1.2 million or more slots, that the ones that are coming on merit should be about merit,” Issa said.
“Canada was mentioned – Canada has a points system. Australia has a point system and it does matter. By the way, they also have an age preference. I’m not saying we go to that completely but I would love to see half a million of that 1.2 million be people who have a lot to offer the United States in addition to ambition, which most immigrants have, be put to the front of the line whenever possible. I think that’s good for our economy and it’s good for the perception of immigrants. Not all of those slots would be that way, some of the slots would always end up being people who are coming here fleeing impossible situations elsewhere,” he added.
Issa said the H1B system is “complex” and there are areas that need to be improved.
“This program is not that broken. We can fix it. We can show that it’s good and we can expand it so when I look at all the various immigration areas, this is one where small fixes, ones that do not automatically say to one group that they are cut out of the process,” he said.
Issa said a foreign worker could be brought in at one salary and paid less the following year. According to Issa, “most employers are not abusive” but the system does not “particularly protect the guest worker.”
“Those who come here knowing that most H1B temporary workers are really coming here to be permanent workers and most employers, particularly direct employers, intend for these workers to be permanent workers,” he said. “The decade long or longer waits have to be dealt with and that’s where fixing the system and lifting per country caps are going to have to occur and both occur soon.”