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H1-B Visa Open Season Begins


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website signals a new approach to granting H1-B visa.


Many people have been contacting United States offices around the world since the government’s H1-B visa program for foreign workers opened on Monday.

H1-B visas give American businesses permission to employ skilled foreign workers in the United States for three years. Many technology companies have used the program to fill job openings.

This year, there are 85,000 visas available: 65,000 for people with a bachelor’s degree from a college or university, and 20,000 visas for those with higher education.

In recent years, there have been so many visa requests that the U.S. government stopped accepting them within a week. Visa winners are chosen through a computer-generated lottery system.

This year, there is additional pressure because the program’s future is not clear: President Donald Trump has said that he will not let foreigners holding H1-B visas displace U.S. workers.

On Monday, the Department of Justice warned U.S. companies not to discriminate against American citizens.

Tom Wheeler is Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. He said: “U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims.”

At the same time, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services warned it will take a “more targeted approach” as its agents inspect businesses across the country. It promised to investigate companies with a high percentage of H1-B workers compared to U.S. citizens. It also plans to investigate employers who ask for permission to let H1-B workers perform their duties away from the traditional workplace.

Outsourcing

The Department of Homeland Security noted that 71 percent of H-1B visas were given in 2015 to people from India. That year, 10 percent were given to Chinese.

Experts say India has such a high number because of the country’s many outsourcing companies. Those businesses supply workers and services to other employers.

Supporters of the H1-B visa program say there are not enough skilled American workers to fill all the positions for which skilled workers are needed.

A group called New American Economy says there are “persistent and dramatic” worker shortages in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The group is made up of American business leaders and city officials who support immigration reform. It reported that in 2016, there were 12 or more job openings in the STEM areas for every unemployed American worker.

Some bills in the U.S. Congress expand the visa program. Others seek to limit it.

I’m Kevin Turner.

VOA News reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

bachelor’s degreen. a recognition given to a student by a college or university, usually after four years of study

generatev. to bring into existence; to be the cause of something

disfavoredadj. disapproving or disliking

statusn. a position or rating in relation to something else

vigorouslyadj. of or related to full physical or mental force

prosecuting - v. to follow to an end; to bring legal action against

approach n. passage; path or way

persistentadj. existing for a long or longer than usual time

dramaticadj. historic; theatrical

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