Comment on USCIS proposed regulation, “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File Cap Subject H-1B Petitions”, RIN 1615-AC61 – by Alan Lee, Esq.

As published in the Immigration Daily on November 3, 2020

Below is our comment to the above proposed regulation which would allow USCIS to first give favor to the selection of H-1B registrations or petitions (if the registration system is suspended) on the basis of petitioners offering higher wage levels. Persons wishing to comment should do so through the federal e-rulemaking portal, by the end of day on December 2, 2020.

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Agency: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Document Type: Rulemaking
Title: 30 DAY COMMENTS CLOSE ON 12/2/2020; 60- DAY IC COMMENTS CLOSE ON 1/4/2021; Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File Cap- Subject H-1B Petitions
Document ID: USCIS-2020-0019-0001

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am submitting this comment in opposition to USCIS’s NPRM, USCIS-2020-0019; RIN 1615-AC61 for a number of reasons including its mistaken correlation of money to the worth of a position, discriminatory effect on US workers, its potential harm to the nation, and its violation of the US spirit against egalitarianism.

As a 35 year plus practitioner of immigration law, especially business-related, I believe that I have much practical and theoretical experience in the area of H-1B visas, including that the program was never meant to be as restrictive as the Trump administration would have us believe it to be in its latest bald attempt to make the program unusable to smaller sized organizations.

The proposed rule would allow USCIS to employ wage levels to either the H-1B registration system or to H-1B cap petitions in any year in which the registration requirement is suspended in such manner that selections would first be based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) prevailing wage level that the proffered wage equals or exceeds for the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and area(s) of intended employment.

Wage, however, is a poor barometer of a position’s worth. A Fortune 500 company can pay twice or even three times the going rate for college graduates than other workplaces. Many companies or other organizations do not have the resources to compete moneywise with large corporations that are able and willing to overpay for the same level of candidates.

Looking at government hiring practices shows the absurdity of correlating high pay with the worth of a position. The government hires many college graduates who are very bright, but it is unwilling or unable to compete moneywise with large corporations. Does that mean that a job in the government is less complicated or requires someone with lesser brains? The answer in most cases is a resounding no!

Wage inequality and discrimination against US workers is another problem with this proposed regulation. An employer wishing to have a good chance of getting an H-1B worker would have to up the level of pay – on many occasions more than the job is really worth – and wind up paying the alien more than it would a US worker for the same position. The employer might then be liable for practicing employment discrimination.

How will this country compete in the 21st century against the rest of the world? The best way is to nurture those who have come through the US education system and to attract others who may eventually help to keep the country competitive. That is the reason why it is so important to have programs like CPT, OPT, and the H-1B visa program. Rome was not built in a day, and neither do most people become superstars directly after graduation or even after a period of time of CPT, OPT, or even H-1B status. This proposal is part of the suite of regulations designed to raise H-1B qualifications to star level. But this nation needs not only superstars, but highly educated persons who are capable in their fields, and able to support the work of the superstars. The entire history of H-1B practice has been in this direction. The way to attract the highly trained from other countries is to lower and not constantly construct barriers. This nation is especially lacking professionals in the STEM sciences and playing catch-up to many other countries. Although there is now growing emphasis on STEM sciences in colleges and universities, much of America’s youth is more engaged in the liberal arts as STEM subjects are harder, boring to many, and exacting.

Many of the breakthroughs in the future will not come from Fortune 500 companies, but from small ones that cannot afford to pay artificially elevated wages to their employees. Did a small R&D biotechnology firm like Moderna have enough funding to pay level II, III or IV wages in its early stages to incoming graduates at the Master’s or PhD levels? From reports that the company’s experimental vaccine research was greatly accelerated by a $1 million contribution from the country western star Dolly Parton before the federal government stepped in with an offer of funding, one could believe that money was tight. The US will be the loser if USCIS ever implements this proposed regulation.

This country was built in large part by small businesses paying people a fair wage and not by the egalitarianism of big business outbidding the market and grabbing up the prize – in this case, limited H-1B visas. This proposed rule is against the American spirit of equal opportunity for all US businesses and pitches the field against smaller sized businesses.

For the reasons stated above, the proposed rule makes no sense except as a deterrent against use of the H-1B program by many organizations desirous of and in need of the candidates’ services.

Your consideration of this comment is appreciated.

Alan Lee, Attorney-at-Law
408 Eighth Ave., Ste. 5A
New York, NY 10001