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Biden admin seeks public comments on H-1B wage reforms

NEW DELHI: The Biden administration is seeking public comments on the best methodology and data to use in updating minimum wage requirements for H-1B visa and green card holders.
One of the action points in US President Joe Biden’s pre-election manifesto was to ‘curb exploitation of foreign workers, by ensuring that employers cannot hire below the market rate’.
Thus, the writing on the wall was clear that wage related reforms would be carried out, together with other immigration reforms such as clearing the green card backlog.
It may be recalled that the Trump administration, in its final days, had issued a rule, which increased wages across all four skill levels for H-1B workers and green card holders.
However, a multi-year transition period was provided for it. The wage hike was not as steep as that contained in the earlier interim final rule introduced last October, which was shot down by US district courts as the public notice and comment requirements were not followed.
While comparatively the wage hike was much lower, it still had the effect of making hiring of expat workers more challenging and was perceived as having an adverse effect in bridging the skill gaps, especially in crucial sectors such as technology and medical and research fields.
On the other hand, critics of the H-1B cap visa program have alleged that some sponsoring employers abuse the system and hire ‘cheap’ foreign labour.
Owing to President Joe Biden’s regulatory freeze, the wage rule did not apply to the recently concluded lottery process for the season ended September 30, 2022. The US Department of Labour (DOL) has delayed the effective date of this rule until November 14, 2022 along with corresponding delays in the transition dates.
Till date, US government agencies have used the Occupational Employment Statistics Report data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics to determine the appropriate wage rate by the job and region where the H-1B visa holder will be employed.
Recently, the DOL invited public comments, which will be considered by it as it reviews this rule. The end objective is “to revise the computation of the prevailing wage levels in a manner that more effectively ensures that the employment of certain immigrant and non-immigrant workers does not adversely affect the wages of US workers similarly employed,” states DOL in its notification.

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