President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a new rule Thursday that would blow the lid off the current cap on the number of foreign workers businesses can hire via the H-1B visa program.
Each year, demand for these temporary foreign workers far exceeds the supply — which is capped at 65,000 — but the proposed rule would exempt certain types of workers from that cap. Any business could hire an unlimited number of foreign workers on H-1Bs under the rule, so long as the workers spent 51 percent of their time working for a university, non-profit or government research agency.
The visas are intended to help companies bring in highly-skilled foreign workers for jobs Americans can’t fill, but some companies are reportedly using them to cut labor costs. The Walt Disney Company, Southern California Edison, Fossil Group and other companies have reportedly laid off hundreds of tech workers in the past year, replacing them with foreign workers on H-1B visas hired by contractors.