Rep. Darrell Issa speaks at a South by Southwest conference in Austin. Photo courtesy Issa's office
Rep. Darrell Issa speaks at a South by Southwest conference in Austin. Photo courtesy Issa’s office

Rep. Darrell Issa has introduced bipartisan legislation designed to close loopholes in the H1-B temporary visa program to ensure that only the most highly skilled foreign applicants can work in the United States.

The program was created by Congress to help grow the economy by granting temporary visas to highly skilled individuals when companies could not find suitable employees in the American workforce.

Issa’s bill, H.R. 5801 dubbed the “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act,” would raise the minimum salary requirement from $60,000 to $100,000 and eliminate a loophole that let candidates with a masters degree be hired at any salary level.

“The high-skilled visa program is critical to ensuring American companies can attract and retain the world’s best talent,” said Issa, a Republican who represents north coastal San Diego and south Orange counties, on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, in recent years, this important program has become abused and exploited as a loophole for companies to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas.”

“The bill we’ve put forward is simple, bipartisan and will go a long way to fixing one of the many problems with our broken immigration system,” he added.

The legislation won strong support from Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat, whose district covering La Jolla, central San Diego and Poway includes many high tech and biotech companies.

“Innovators across San Diego rely on high-skilled visas to maintain a talented workforce,” Peters said. “This commonsense fix updates our high-skilled visas to reduce abuse of the system and ensures a level playing field for American workers.”

Current federal law allows 65,000 foreign nationals to be issued an H1-B visa each fiscal year. The visas are good for three years, and can be extended to six years.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.