Employment immigration: Debate about U.S. H-1B visa continues

Since 1990, U.S. companies have been able to sponsor temporary foreign workers for the H1-B visa program. This program was created to attract the brightest and best talent from Canada and other countries through employment immigration. H-1B visas are available to foreign holders of bachelor's degrees in certain speciality fields, including computer programming, engineering and science. These visas are valid for three years and may then be extended for another three years.

The U.S. government issues only 85,000 H-1B visas annually, and this includes non-immigrant visas for 20,000 foreign holders of U.S. advanced degrees. Reportedly, over 200,000 H-1B visa applications are filed each year. The government uses a lottery system to allocate the 85,000 visas.

In the new U.S. president's first month in office, the focus is on immigration. Federal lawmakers are looking at different approaches for reforming the program to protect the rights of U.S. workers. Many say American workers must come first, and when foreign workers are considered for positions, those who qualified through American universities and colleges must receive preference.

The current U.S. concern over too many foreign workers seems focused on workers from a particular group of countries that does not include Canada. However, as debates about H-1B visas continue, it is not clear how future changes will affect workers in Canada who want to apply for visas to work in the United States. Consulting with an experienced employment immigration lawyer who has up-to-date knowledge of the latest changes in laws related to non-immigrant visas for travelling to the United States may be the appropriate step to take.

Source: NBC News, "Concern Grows Overseas as Congress Weighs Bills Targeting H-1B Visa Program", Chris Fuchs, Feb. 2, 2017

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