Increased fees for H-1B visas could be used to pay for apprentice programs for people in Florida and across the United States. The budget for the 2020 fiscal year includes $160 million for the Department of Labor to expand apprenticeship programs that began in 2018. However, it is unclear if the proposed budget will look the same as the one that is eventually passed.
While the number of foreign college graduates in Florida who obtained temporary work visas through the optional practical training program, or OPT, grew in 2017, participation in the program has dramatically slowed. The decreased participation comes at a time when unemployment is also low, which might make it harder for some employers to find the workers that they need.
Immigrant workers in Florida holding H-1B visas receive permission to enter the country because their employers need their skills, which are usually unavailable or in short supply among American citizens. Nationwide, many people believe these immigrant workers take jobs that could have gone to Americans. A survey conducted by a newspaper and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group found that 45 percent of respondents held this view.
Immigrant advocacy groups in Florida and around the country have long claimed that the government's system for processing permanent residency applications and issuing green cards is unfair. Under the current quota system, no more than 7 percent of the 140,000 employment-based green cards available each year can be issued to immigrants from any single country. This has led to a situation where immigrants from large countries like India and China face green card waiting times of up to 70 years.
In Florida, many businesses rely on the H-1B visa program to secure employees. A memo that was released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in February may severely impact small staffing firms that rely on the H-1B visa program to get the workers that they need. A group of tech staffing firms have filed a lawsuit against the USCIS and are seeking an injunction to prevent the memo from being enforced.
Business owners in Florida may have foreign national workers as employees on a long-term or short-term basis. In order to obtain permanent residence or non-immigrant work visas, workers have to be qualified based on strict and complex criteria. Although immigration procedures are intended to aid companies in United States with procuring the skilled personnel they need from other countries, procedures for obtaining green cards or visas do not really pertain to business necessity.
Florida residents are likely aware that President Trump has vowed to toughen the nation's immigration laws to protect American jobs. The H-1B employment visa program has been singled out for particular criticism because it allows foreign workers to assume positions in the lucrative research and technology sectors, but calls for reform are unlikely to prevent the competition for available H-1B visas to be especially fierce in the year ahead.
Florida employers who want to hire and sponsor qualified foreign workers to come to the United States under the H-1B visa program may want to act quickly, as changes may be coming to the program. These changes may take place with little advance notice through the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, there is an annual cap on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued each year. The annual limit is 65,000, and there is an exemption for 20,000 additional visas for people who obtained advanced degrees in the United States.
Some foreign nationals that are planning to come to Florida to work may find that their H-1B visas are delayed. Attorneys report that their clients are getting more requests for evidence, which are also known as challenges, than normal.