Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Jeff Sessions have cosponsored a bill in the United States Senate, the Americans Jobs First Program, that could radically change the H-1B Visa, the visa employers use to hire foreign workers. It is expected that not only will it entirely reshape the program, it would effectively end the Option Practical Training (OPT) program.
The visa is aimed at workers who have at least a bachelor’s degree and have a specialized skill that is difficult to fill in the United States. The OPT program is designed to allow workers who have attained a bachelor’s or higher degree of education an opportunity for on the job training.
The Senators maintain that the visa program has been exploited by employers in ways that are not faithful to its original intent, and has instead been used as a tool to decrease labor costs.
The new bill would now require that foreign national workers working in the United States be paid either what they would have to pay a U.S. national with two years of experience, or $110,000 annually, whichever is higher. Additionally, employers would be prohibited from hiring H-1B employees for a two year period following lay-offs or forced furloughs, employee strikes or lockouts, etc., thus discouraging employers from using suck tactics to replace native workers with foreign nationals.
The OPT program would abolished on the grounds that the program is being abused to hire every less expensive labor, without providing any of the on the job training stipulated by the program. The bill would also prohibit the creation of programs that resemble the OPT program.
It’s not clear how likely it is that the bill as drafted will pass. It’s important to note that the bill was introduced by a Senator currently running for the Office of President, which has opened speculation that it was created with an eye on drawing voters.