Student Visa Extension Way of Circumventing H-1B Cap, Says AFL-CIO

Ann All

Earlier this month, several groups including the Immigration Law Reform Institute and The Programmers Guild filed a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's decision to extend the amount of time foreign nationals can work in the United States on student visas from one year to 29 months.


The groups contend that the administration exceeded its legal authority by making the change, which they say is an effort to circumvent the H-1B visa cap by offering an option to companies unable to obtain H-1Bs.


Add the AFL-CIO to the chorus of voices opposing the move. Ana Avendano, director of the AFL-CIO's immigrant worker program, wrote in comments posted on that the extension "turns a student visa program into a labor market program, and essentially lifts the cap that Congress has placed on the H-1B program," reports Computerworld.


Employers with workers on extended student visas won't have to satisfy such H-1B program requirements as paying a prevailing wage, Avendano notes. This could result in possible worker abuses and downward price pressure on tech salaries.


A requirement seen as problematic by supporters of the extension is participation in E-Verify, the federal electronic verification program for immigrants. Few employers participate in E-Verify because of concerns about the system's accuracy, according to Computerworld. In his comments, Mark Hallett, director of international student and scholar services at Colorado State University, called the E-Verify requirement a "deal killer."


In another move to free up more H-1B slots, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) earlier this month introduced a bill that would create a separate immigration classification for fashion models, who are currently included in the same H-1B labor pool as tech workers.


With legislative efforts to lift or increase the H-1B cap stalled for the foreseeable future, some lawmakers are focusing instead on helping skilled professionals more easily obtain green cards.

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