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Microsoft Lays Off Workers Amid Calls for Expanded H1-B Visas

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on September 10, 2015

In July, Microsoft Corporation announced it would lay off 7,800 workers worldwide. The layoffs amount to 7 percent of the technology company’s global workforce. Politicians rarely like to hear about corporate layoffs — particularly when the fired employees work in their districts — but Microsoft is also taking heat because its layoffs come at a time when it is simultaneously lobbying for the U.S. government to increase the number of H1-B visas, which allow foreign workers in specialty occupations to live and work in the United States for up to six years.

Under current limits, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) can issue 65,000 H1-B visas annually. Microsoft is reportedly ranks third in the country in employing H1-B visa holders. The company has lobbied Congress to pass the I-Squared Act of 2015, which would amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow between 115,000 and 195,000 H-1B visas to be issued annually.

Layoffs Invite Criticism of Microsoft

In the wake of Microsoft’s recent layoffs, the company has attracted criticism from lawmakers. Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who chairs the Senate’s Immigration Subcommittee, issued a statement, saying in part:

Microsoft has just announced it is laying off another 7,800 workers, on top of the 18,000 layoffs it has already announced. This means Microsoft has shed roughly 1/5th of its workforce in the past couple years. And yet Microsoft, perhaps more than any other major U.S. company, has claimed it suffers from a shortage of American workers and must therefore import more H-1B foreign guest workers. … As Microsoft’s layoffs show, there is a surplus—not a shortage—of skilled, talented, and qualified Americans seeking [science, technology, engineering and math] STEM employment. … As Professor Ron Hira testified, “the H-1B visa has become a highly lucrative business model of bringing in cheaper H-1B workers to substitute for Americans… Most of the H-1B program is now being used to import cheaper foreign guestworkers, replacing American workers, and undercutting their wages.”

H1-B Visa Cover More Than STEM Workers

Although the H1-B visa qualifying requirements include science, technology, engineering and math professions among “specialty occupations” that are covered, many H1-B visa holders work in other occupations. These include healthcare, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology and the arts. Even fashion models come to the United States on H1-B visas.

Companies that lay off employees while simultaneously seeking H1-B visas for foreign workers open themselves to criticism that they’re seeking to replace U.S. workers with lower-paid foreign employees. However, when applying for a H1-B visa, employers must submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) to the U.S. Department of Labor certifying that foreign workers will receive a salary that meets or exceeds the prevailing wage. A corporate immigration lawyer can guide your business through the process of applying for an H1-B visa as well as the LCA.

Corporate Immigration Lawyers for Your Company’s Business-Immigration Needs

If your company needs business-based visas for its employees, contact the corporate immigration lawyers at The Shapiro Law Group at (847) 564-0712 for a free consultation.