H-1B visa fees paid by employers for recruiting highly-skilled foreign workers have funded nearly 90,000 college scholarships for U.S. students in science and engineering and enabled more than 1 million K-12 students and 50,000 teachers to receive support, training to enter science fields.
According to a just-released study by the National Foundation for American Policy, an Arlington, Virginia-based public policy research organization, the fees have also contributed approximately $2.5 billion toward training U.S. workers in technology fields through Department of Labor (DOL) grants.
The study published on April 1, says employers paid $4.9 billion in mandated H-1B fees to fund primarily scholarships for U.S. students and training for U.S. workers between FY 1999 and FY 2018.
“It seems like one of the best-kept secrets in immigration that whenever a high-skilled foreign national is sponsored for a new H-1B petition, it results in money going to fund college scholarships for U.S. students, and also science education for K-12 students and job training for American workers,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of NFAP, told India Abroad.
“Even those who are following immigration closely do not realize that employer-paid H-1B fees have funded about 90,000 scholarships to help U.S. students earn degrees in engineering and computer science,” he added.
The fee is currently $1,500 on an initial H-1B petition, a change of an H-1B employer, or an extension of an “H-1B stay by the same petitioner filing on behalf of the same beneficiary,” according to USCIS ($750 for petitioners with 25 or fewer employees).
An overwhelming majority of H1-B visa holders in the U.S. are technology workers from India. Big tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google as also other medium and small-sized tech companies and outside of the Silicon Valley recruit a huge chunk of technology workers from India every year.
The study notes the H-1B fees have benefited American students and encouraged through teaching and financial support many individuals to enter science and engineering fields.
“Yet, U.S. companies still need access to talent from around the world. It seems evident the demand for high-tech skills cannot be met solely with native-born workers, if Americans want U.S. companies to grow in the United States, rather than abroad,” the study said.
“Most Americans would agree it strikes the right balance to fund scholarships for U.S. students, while at the same time welcoming to the United States talented foreign-born scientists and engineers,” Anderson told this correspondent.
The study notes that the annual limit on H-1B visas has been exhausted each of the past 16 fiscal years.
But in its recent budget, the Trump administration has proposed doubling the current $1,500 training and scholarship fee employers pay when filing a petition for an H-1B professional.
However, NFAP said that when Congress imposed the fee in 1998 and increased it in 2000 and 2004, it did so in conjunction with increasing the annual limit on H-1B visas.
“It seems unlikely employers would support, nor would objective observers find it a reasonable policy, to increase significantly the fees employers pay without changes to immigration law to increase the access of employers to high-skilled foreign nationals,” it said.
The NFAP study is based on information it received from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services along with additional analysis.
It said that while the amount of employer-paid H-1B fee money spent on grants is available in public DOL notices, the Department of Labor has not provided to the public information on the number of individuals who have received training through FY 2018 and the results of the training.
“Such information and other data would allow policymakers to assess the effectiveness of the grants and weigh the wisdom of raising fees to fund more such grants,” the study emphasized.
“The $1,500 training and scholarship fee is charged on both initial and continuing applications meaning the first extension for an individual already with H-1B status for the same employer,” Anderson said.
“To the extent more of the continuing employment (extension) applications are rejected, it would reduce the amount of money that goes toward scholarships and job training,” Anderson said in response to a question about the impact of denials of continuing employment (extension) applications on funding of scholarships.