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Sen. Ted Cruz wants minimum H-1B wage of US$110,000

Patrick Thibodeau | Dec. 14, 2015
Cruz's H-1B reform bill proposes raising wages and ending OPT.

In particular, the bill prohibits H-1B workers from paying penalties to their employers for leaving a job before the date agreed to. It also prohibits employers from requiring an H-1B worker to pay fees for housing, vehicle use and other things.

Hira said the bill also "fills a critical void in the legislative policy discussion by closing President Obama's disastrous" OPT program, which Hira, referring to the administration's new program to extend the program, calls "a three year zero-wage guest worker visa that serves no purpose except to undercut American workers and students."

The OPT program does not include the prevailing wage requirements of the H-1B visa.

The Cruz and Session bill also provides a "layoff cool-off" period of two years, preventing an employer from bringing in an H-1B worker within two years of a strike, layoff, furlough or other involuntary employee terminations.

It includes transparency requirements, with "real-time online updating" of H-1B applications and usage.

The Cruz bill does not address the H-1B cap, but similar to the bill by Grassley and Durbin, it attacks H-1B usage by making it more expensive to use these visa workers. Nelson's bill does both. It reduces the base cap of 65,000 by 15,000.

The OPT program has been under legal attack, and the STEM extension is now under threat of being eliminated, thanks a lawsuit filed by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, or WashTech.

The only previous statutory authorization for aliens to work in the U.S. while on an F-1 student visa was a three-year trial program that's since expired. Since 1994, all authorizations for aliens to work on student visas have been done solely by regulation, according to a history of the OPT program provided in the WashTech lawsuit.

John Miano, the attorney representing WashTech, said, "Such an expressed ban on non-students working on student visas should not be necessary." In 1981, 'Congress expressly limited F-1 visas to academic students," said Miano.

The OPT program was originally 12 months, but in 2008 the U.S. extended it to 29 months for STEM students and recently proposed making it 36 months. WashTech challenged the extension in court, but last August a federal court said the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security erred by not seeking comment in 2008 about the STEM extension. The U.S. has since sought comment on a new rule, and is preparing a final rule to avoid a court-ordered disruption of the OPT STEM extension.

Sessions is a co-sponsor of the Grassley and Durbin bill, and Nelson's bill as well as Cruz's. In total, the three bills give the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Grassley, a menu of approaches and ideas for reforming the H-1B program.


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