Could H-1B Crackdown Hurt Nonprofit Hiring?

Federal reform of the H-1B visa program may limit the visas to more highly skilled, higher-paid workers. Some in the nonprofit world are warning that that a high salary requirement would make it harder for organizations with smaller budgets to secure the talent they need.

The Trump administration’s actions on H-1B visas have drawn a lot of attention in different sectors of the economy, but less in the nonprofit space.

And there may be cause for concern. Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing a federal review of the process by which the visas are awarded. The president made it clear that he would like the 65,000 H-1B visas granted each year to go to the most highly skilled—and highly-paid—foreign workers.

“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery, and that’s wrong,” Trump said when he signed the order last week.

While the review is targeted at large technology companies, it could have unexpected ripple effects. “Awarding visas to the 65,000 highest-paying jobs every year could force a salary arms race, which would be fine for Google but not so good for companies whose pockets are less deep,” Vox’s Dara Lind wrote last week.

Critics of the plan say that awarding visas based largely on salary would put many mission-driven organizations at a disadvantage.  “Organizations without a great deal of money to begin with still have to pay extra fees to hire foreign labor, regardless of how valuable and critical non-American workers can be,” E.A. Crunden wrote for the progressive news outlet ThinkProgress.

Another outcome could be a bidding war for talent. “If a company is offering $140,000 for one position and another is offering $70,000, the $140,000 is going to be selected,” noted Kramer Levin Partner Ted Ruthizer, an expert in immigration law, in comments to USA Today.

Nonprofits have been watching the issue closely since Trump took office. In January, The NonProfit Times quoted Council for Global Immigration Executive Director Lynn Shotwell as saying that the jobs in question are often positions where an equivalent American employee can’t be found.

Nonprofits are “hiring people who have a lot of talent, often in areas where there are no Americans available to do the job,” Shotwell said. “My members are watching all of this very closely.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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