A bill that has been proposed in the House of Representatives called The American Tech Workforce Act wants to end the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. According to the bill’s proponents, this training program is primarily used by some of the country’s largest tech companies as a way to achieve large tax breaks and hire foreign national workers at a cheaper rate than with traditional visas.
The bill is a part of a Republican Study Committee Initiative and is intended to make Big Tech companies more accountable. It was introduced by Jim Banks, the Republican Study Committee Chairman. The bill would have to be passed by both the House and Senate before it could become law.
The bill is intended to get big tech companies to hire more Americans. The bill would establish a wage floor for workers with H-1B visas that would be similar to the more highly paid American employees in the position or $110,000. Higher paying employers would also get priority in obtaining visas under the bill. Additionally, the bill would put limitations on the ability of big tech firms to get their workers through third-party employment services. Also, for workers sponsored by third-party companies, H-1B visas would be limited to one year instead of the current three years.
Major tech companies have been some of the most approved companies for H-1B visas for a number of years. These companies have long relied upon foreign nationals through these visas and the OPT to fill gaps in their skilled workforce which the bill’s proponents argue provides unfair competition for domestic workers and recent college graduates.
Under the OPT program, foreign national students are permitted to work in the U.S. for up to three years if they have completed a valid STEM degree. Employers of these workers are not required to pay payroll taxes on these workers, which the bill’s proponents fear puts domestic candidates at a disadvantage.
However, the bill has many opponents that point to the immense labor shortage the U.S. is currently facing as well as the short-term status of the OPT program which is primarily intended to give students the opportunity to gain practical experience in their field. Additionally, many fear that creating an H-1B marketplace where the highest bidder wins could simply place larger employers at an advantage rather than help domestic workers.
For now, it is highly uncertain whether or not the bill will gain traction in Congress or not.