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Loophole may lead to abuse of H-1B visa program

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Maryland residents may have read headlines about the worker replacement scandal at Walt Disney World. Disney was criticized for using an outsourcing firm to replace over 200 American IT workers with foreign H-1B visa recipients. Since then, several other companies such as Southern California Edison and the University of California have used similar tactics to replace American workers with foreign workers.

The H-1B visa program was created in 1990 as a way to allow American companies to hire foreign workers with specialized skills. Each year, 85,000 H-1B visas are issued. Though there are laws in place that are designed to protect American workers from losing jobs to H-1B workers, critics say there is a loophole that undermines those protections.

Under the Immigration Act of 1990, employers are obligated to pay H-1B visa holders the prevailing wage in the area. A bill in 1998 also required employers to refrain from replacing American workers with foreign workers at their own company or companies that they have contracts with. However, there is an exemption to the protections for companies that rely heavily on H-1B workers. Companies with a workforce that is comprised of at least 15 percent H-1B visa holders are allowed to ignore the protections for American workers if they pay the H-1B workers at least $60,000 per year.

While there may be companies that take advantage of immigration laws for financial gain, many others use the H-1B visa program to hire foreign workers that possess specialized skills that are in high demand. An employer that needs help securing H-1B visas for qualified workers may want to work with a U.S. immigration law attorney to ensure that all documents and applications are complete and filed in a timely manner.

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