Higher Standards for H-1B Visas Announced

Federal agencies announced on Oct. 6 long-expected reforms to the H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers that will raise the bar for qualifying for the popular visas.

The interim final rules, expected to be issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor (DOL) Oct. 8, would increase the required wages employers must pay their H-1B workers and redefine the degrees, occupations and employer-employee relationships eligible for the visas.

The DOL’s wage-scale revision is set to take effect Oct. 8. Under the new rule, the required wage level for entry-level workers would rise to the 45th percentile of their profession’s category, from the current requirement of the 17th percentile. The requirement for the highest-skilled workers would rise to the 95th percentile, from the 67th percentile.

When seeking to employ an H-1B worker or to hire a foreign worker under the EB-2 or EB-3 green card categories, U.S. employers must attest that they will pay the workers the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid to other employees with similar experience and qualifications.

Publishing the regulation as an interim final rule allows it to go into effect without public input but also makes it more vulnerable to legal challenge.