Bill Davis, a Dayton-area senior programmer who has experienced numerous layoffs and industry shifts in his decades in IT. I know people that told their kids not to get into IT just because of the way the foreigners were being used on H-1b visas, he said. They couldve created their own problem. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

New guidelines could impact use of visas for IT outsourcing

Federal immigration officials have released new guidelines that could make it harder for information technology staffing companies to use H-1B temporary work visas to replace American workers.

A memorandum released March 31 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services raised the threshold for companies wanting to bring foreign workers into the U.S. for computer programming jobs paying entry-level wages.

According to an analysis by the media company AXIOS, “Companies applying for H-1B visas for computer programming positions will have to submit additional evidence showing that the jobs are complex or specialized and require professional degrees. Entry-level wages attached to these visa applications will also get more scrutiny. The change appears to target outsourcing companies, who typically employ lower-paid, lower-level computer workers.”

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The change came right before USCIS opened up the annual application window for H-1B visas on Monday, April 3. As in most years, all 85,000 available visas were expected to be snatched up within days.

An I-Team investigation last year found that 82 percent of the 33,348 preliminary applications for H-1B visas in Ohio the previous year were for jobs paying below-average wages. The most frequent applicants for these visas were companies that experts say specialize in outsourcing, raising questions about whether the program is filling jobs here or allowing more jobs to move overseas.

Also, Wright State University’s use of the H-1B visa has made national news and spurred an ongoing federal, criminal investigation.

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An I-Team investigation found that WSU was sponsoring visas for workers employed at a local IT staffing company, in possible violation of program rules. The arrangement allowed the company to avoid some scrutiny applied to for-profit companies, as well as the annual cap.


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