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Bill would exempt some workers from the H-1B visa cap

When a specialty worker from a foreign country is pursuing an H-1B visa to temporarily work in the U.S., there are many details that can matter considerably. One is whether the visa cap would apply to them. There is a general cap for how many visas can be granted under the H-1B program in a year. While this cap applies to most H-1B eligible workers, there are a few classes of such worker that are exempt. One example are specialty workers who would be working with a government research organization.

Whether or not an H-1B visa seeker is cap exempt can have big impacts on how much in the way of delays or waits they could face in their efforts to get an H-1B visa. Their cap status and other details that could impact how long the visa-seeking process could go for them are among the things that it can be very important for a foreign worker to be aware of as they are pursuing an H-1B visa.

A bill is before Congress which could change how certain foreign workers are treated when it comes to the H-1B visa cap.

Currently, foreign specialty workers who received an advanced degree (master’s or higher) in the U.S. can qualify for a limited exemption from this cap. Specifically, up to 20,000 such workers can be exempt from the general H-1B visa cap a year. So there is a limit to how many such workers can take advantage of this cap exemption.

Among the things the bill would do is change it so some holders of American advanced degrees would have a full exemption from the H-1B cap. Specifically, the new full cap exemption would apply to foreign workers who received a PhD in a STEM field in the United States.

This bill was recently reintroduced in Congress. The bill’s proponents say making recipients of American STEM PhD degrees cap exempt could help promote innovation in America.

If the bill is ultimately passed, what impacts do you think it would have on innovation levels in the U.S.?

Sources: Financial Regulation News, “Reps. Paulsen, Quigley reintroduce immigration bill to encourage American innovation,” May 30, 2017

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “H-1B Specialty Occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models,” Accessed May 31, 2017

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