What's wrong with the H-1B visa program? Two perspectives | KUOW News and Information

What's wrong with the H-1B visa program? Two perspectives

Apr 24, 2017

Last week President Trump signed an executive order that could bring significant changes to the H-1B visa program, which lets companies temporarily hire a limited number of foreign workers. Created in 1990, the program is popular among local tech companies, especially Microsoft.


Specifically, the Trump administration wants to award visas to the “most-skilled or highest paid workers,” rather than by lottery, as it's run now.

We asked two experts about the changes and learned they agree on at least one thing: the lottery system has to go.

Aerospace labor union representative Stan Sorscher:

  • The original purpose for H-1B was to address a labor shortage. If we still have that shortage, we either misunderstood something or it’s terribly designed.
  • Currently H-1Bs give power to employers. An auction program would give workers more power.
  • Tech companies are too picky in hiring. "Qualified" used to mean able to do the job with some on-the-job training. Now we look for someone who can “hit the ground running.” You should pay a premium for that.

Seattle immigration lawyer Tahmina Watson:

  • H-1B applications are expensive and the lottery makes it difficult for companies to plan long term.
  • If changes bring a lot of restrictions, employers will likely go to other countries where it’s easier.
  • H-1Bs have a multiplier effect. For every H-1B, five positions are created. For example, each applicant needs an accountant and a doctor when they move here.

Produced for the web by Bond Huberman