Center for American Progress

Establish a Market-Based Mechanism to Set H-1B Levels
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Establish a Market-Based Mechanism to Set H-1B Levels

Arbitrary numeric limitations in the H-1B visa program serve no clear national interest except to prevent the possibility of widespread employer abuse of the program.

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Arbitrary numeric limitations in the H-1B visa program serve no clear national interest except to prevent the possibility of widespread employer abuse of the program. The federal government should adopt instruments to minimize the risk of misuse as described elsewhere in this paper, but the artificial visa ceiling should be adjusted to respond to the demands of the U.S. economy and avoid forcing those we educate in this country to compete with us abroad. Congress should:

  • Establish a market-based mechanism that allows the H-1B supply to grow and shrink as the demand for additional workers fluctuates. Such a “market-based escalator” will not be perfect in that annual increases and decreases would lag slightly behind the demand curve, but it would establish a more realistic band of ranges. An annual floor and ceiling should be established that would not fluctuate absent further congressional action to serve as an additional check on excessive increases or decreases in supply.
  • Maintain and expand exemptions for those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities and for those entering certain high-demand fields.
  • Create a “pre-immigrant” visa for professionals whose employers intend from the start to sponsor them as permanent residents. This visa must be accompanied by wage and working condition requirements to protect U.S. workers, and must require the employer to begin the green card sponsorship process promptly. This visa would help diminish the artificial use of temporary visas.

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