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H-1B Proposed Changes May Help NC Employers

With changes in the field of US immigration law appearing to be increasingly likely, one of the major areas of expected reform is with respect to the H-1B visa, which could have major implications for employers in North Carolina. The H-1B is one of the most common visas sought by employers for foreign workers and are provided to workers employed in a "specialty occupation", which is commonly defined as an occupation that requires a bachelors degree as a minimum requirement (the bachelors degree requirement is not a blanket rule).

The largest outcry from employers has been with respect to the H-1B CAP, which is a numerical limitation imposed by Congress capping the number of available H-1B visas to new applicants at 65,000 annually, with an additional 20,000 provided to individuals graduating from US post-secondary institutions with Masters degrees. This numerical cap has been widely panned as being inflexible to employer needs and failing to take into account market trends and conditions. Individuals who are unable to have their applications receipted by USCIS before the cap is exhausted are often left with few options for remaining in the United States and often must explore alternative visa categories that are usually are ill-suited for the employers needs.

Recent reports from Capitol Hill have indicated that Congress is seriously considering releasing job positions related to the STEM categories (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) from the H-1B CAP requirements. This would mean that employers seeking graduates in these STEM fields would not be required to compete for the limited cap numbers, but could apply year-round for the H-1B classification for their employees. This would be a huge boon for the North Carolina economy, particularly employers in the Raleigh, Durham, Research Triangle Park (RTP) area, as the number of technology and science-based business continues to grow in the area. According to recent statistics issued by the Durham Chamber of Commerce, the RTP area is second nationally in terms of per capita demand for the H-1B visa. Uncapping the STEM categories could result in a boom of hiring and job creation in the greater Raleigh-Durham area and would likely continue to help spur the current economic success that the region enjoys.

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