The Consumer Technology Association on Thursday threw its support behind recently introduced legislation that would eliminate certain exemptions to the H-1B immigration program that allows U.S. firms to hire high-skilled foreign workers.
“While abuses in the H-1B program have eroded the system, the program remains critical to ensuring that American companies can hire the world’s top talent,” Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of CTA, said in statement.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced the bipartisan measure on Wednesday. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is among the bill’s seven co-sponsors, as are three Democrats.
“First and foremost, this bill is about protecting American jobs,” Issa said Wednesday in a statement. “The high-skilled visa program is critical to ensuring American companies can attract and retain the world’s best talent. Unfortunately, in recent years, this important program has become abused and exploited as a loophole for companies to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas.”
The measure was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where Issa is chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.
The H-1B program allows companies to hire a certain number of high-skilled foreign workers on temporary visas, a valuable asset to the tech industry. In 1998, restrictions were placed on companies using the program to ensure they don’t prioritize foreign workers over U.S. residents.
If more than 15 percent of a company’s workforce have H-1B visas, the firm is required to submit attestations that they couldn’t find any American workers for the job. Companies are exempt from an attestation if the employee is set to make at least $60,000 a year or if the employee holds a master’s degree or higher.
Issa’s bill would get rid of the education degree exemption and increase the salary threshold to $100,000.
The legislation “will help close loopholes for abuse and restore the H-1B system to its intended purpose,” Shapiro said.
CTA represents more than 2,200 companies, ranging from Apple Inc. to Uber Technologies Inc.