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Commentary

H-1B Visa Changes Look Kaput This Year

Moves--or lack of movement--by Congress this week are good news and/or bad news depending on what side of the H-1B visa fence you're on. There seems to be something (and nothing) in it for everyone.
Moves--or lack of movement--by Congress this week are good news and/or bad news depending on what side of the H-1B visa fence you're on. There seems to be something (and nothing) in it for everyone.While hammering out details of a $150 billion-plus spending bill this week, members of Congress agreed not to sneak in any amendments that smell like immigration policy, including any changes to the current H-1B visa program.

That means Congress isn't raising H-1B visa fees this year. A proposal to hike fees to $5,000 from $1,500 was scrapped. Good news for employers.

But Congress isn't raising the annual H-1B visa cap beyond the current limit of 85,000 either. (Bad news for employers wanting to hire foreign tech workers, good news for U.S. IT workers opposed to the competition.)

But without the hike in H-1B visa fees, there's also no funding available for a new American Competitiveness Scholarship program that would've provided merit-based scholarships of up to $15,000 annually to U.S. students pursuing tech-related degrees.

Isn't that bad news for just about everyone?

The pro H-1B visa lobby says the U.S. isn't producing enough home-grown talent employers need. And the anti-H-1B visa crowd says employers just want to hire cheaper labor from abroad.

The scholarship program might've helped attract more American young (and presumably less expensive) people into the tech-talent pipeline. The scholarships could've also helped older American workers further their education with new degrees.

So, if the U.S. continues its status quo on H-1B visa policies, who are the real winners and real losers in all this? Tell me what you think.