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Bill Could Force H-1B Employers To Fund U.S. Scholarships

Currently, the U.S. charges a fee of $1,500 for each H-1B petition that gets earmarked to fund training and education programs for U.S. workers.

Tech employers complain that changes to the H-1B visa program proposed in the Senate's immigration reform bill will make the program too restrictive. But wait, there's more.

Another new amendment being proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), slated for Senate debate today, seeks to impose a new $8,500 surcharge on employers for each H-1B petition filed. The fee would be collected from employers for each new H-1B worker, H-1B visa renewal, or sponsorship of an H-1B non-immigrant applying for a green card, or permanent residency.

Currently, the U.S. charges a fee of $1,500 for each H-1B petition that gets earmarked to fund training and education programs for U.S. workers.

But the new fee being proposed by Sanders would be used to establish and fund a new National Science Foundation merit-based scholarship program for 65,000 American students per year. Under the proposal, qualified students pursuing associate, undergraduate, or graduate degrees in mathematics, engineering, computer science, nursing, or medicine could receive up to $15,000 per year toward their education.

A similar idea of raising H-1B fees to $5,000 to fund free tuition for American students pursuing tech-related degrees was proposed to lawmakers last fall by Kim Berry, president of the IT professional advocacy group Programmers Guild.

In an e-mail to InformationWeek, Berry said that while pleased about the Sanders proposal, he worried that other tech advocacy groups, such as the IEEE, didn't have enough time to evaluate Sanders proposal in order to endorse the amendment in time for the Senate debate this afternoon.

Stay tuned.

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