Under changes made in 2020 by the administration of former President Donald Trump, initial H-1B applications have been replaced by a “registration” system and become far less costly. The registration process, which produced the 759,000 initial applications for next year, requires only a $10 payment. Applicants only pay the full application fees if their registration is selected during the lottery.

The lottery system itself lies at the root of the problem of U.S. companies, including Silicon Valley technology giants, using the H-1B to drive down wages and obtain cheaper foreign workers, Hira said. Citizenship and Immigration’s move against companies allegedly making false attestations would not be necessary if a plan developed under Trump and shelved by the administration of President Joe Biden, to replace the lottery with a system prioritizing the highest pay, were put in place, Hira said. “It would solve this problem,” Hira said. “It would also clean up the rest of the abuse. Our government is a train wreck when it comes to these programs. They have the ability to fix things. Businesses don’t want change.”

The Bay Area Council, which represents major Silicon Valley companies, has opposed the wage-prioritization rule but said the lottery-based H-1B allocation could be combined with minimum requirements for wages.

Citizenship and Immigration, describing the H-1B program as “an essential part of our nation’s immigration system and our economy,” said it was working on a new rule that would bolster the application process “to reduce the possibility of misuse and fraud in the H-1B registration system.”

On Monday, Jon Baselice, vice president of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the group opposes wage-based H-1B allocation because it would give unfair advantage to companies that must pay higher wages to compensate for higher costs of living. “The current lottery-based allocation is not perfect, and we stand ready to work with the administration and our members on ways to improve the process,” Baselice said