Microsoft Proposes Higher Fees for H-1B Visas

    Microsoft, the nation’s top employer seeking H-1B visas and top lobbyist for more, wants companies to pay more for them.

    Calling the difficulty in hiring for top technical positions “a problem that’s approaching dimensions of a genuine crisis,” Brad Smith, Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel, on Thursday proposed charging companies much more to be allowed to hire H-1B visa holders and to use that money to train U.S. workers for science, technology and engineering positions.

    Microsoft is calling on Congress to add 20,000 to the annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, to reserve them for so-called STEM occupations and to release 20,000 green cards to extend the stay of foreign workers, The Seattle Times reports. It wants employers to pay $10,000 for the reserved H-1B visas as opposed to the $1,500 large employers pay now. It proposed the fee for green cards be $15,000.

    Doing so would raise $500 million a year, Smith said, which could be used to hire teachers for K-12 STEM education and to add AP computer science courses in the 95 percent of high schools that don’t have them.

    Smith argues that small companies could bear the higher fees just as well as larger ones because salaries differ little among employers.

    Jacob Kirkegaard, research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., noted that Microsoft’s plan, however, could give it a recruiting edge over Indian outsourcing companies whose staff is heavy with H-1B visa holders. He also thinks Microsoft’s proposal won’t get far in Congress.

    A spokesman for The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers told The Hill that it supports Microsoft’s proposal to add green cards, but not to expand the number of H-1B visas.

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