North Carolina state Senate Republican leader Phil Berger has proposed changes that would block companies from counting workers on H-1B visas, toward the jobs they commit to create in North Carolina in exchange for funds from the Job Development Investment Grant program, according to the Charlotte Observer.
In short, the change would affect companies using state incentives to hire H-1B visa workers and would restrict them from doing so to hire more North Carolinians.
North Carolina’s Gov. Roy Cooper also agrees to the rule as he “believes we need to encourage a diverse workforce but that state jobs incentives should be narrowly tailored to benefit North Carolinians,” according to a statement.
Indian American Nimish Bhatt, the Carolinas Asian American Chamber of Commerce board vice chair, told the Charlotte Observer that he is worried.
“New companies will not come. We will hurt our own economy and our own employment,” he said, though the report from Berger’s office assures that companies could still hire H-1B workers, but won’t be able to apply them to job-creation targets.
Employers say the program helps them fill jobs that draw too few qualified applicants while the Charlotte metro area has as many as 14,000 H-1B workers are spread across banking and other industries, Bhatt said.
The proposal comes after the state awarded millions in grants to companies that hire foreign workers who are IT professionals mainly from India.
India-based outsourcing firm HCL Technologies was awarded more than $19 million by the state in 2014 to create 1,237 new jobs by the end of 2018 while the company filed applications for more than 2,000 H-1B workers based in the state, in 2015.
North Carolina currently has 19,518 open computing jobs and the state only had 1,284 computer science graduates in 2015, according to Code.org, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to computer science education in schools.
The rule would only apply to workers who hole H-1B visas or who are classified as H-1B status, and it would not apply to other visa holders.