WASHINGTON: A bipartisan bill to completely restructure the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes and establish greater openness in the hiring of foreign workers has been submitted in the US Senate by a group of powerful politicians.
A non-immigrant visa called the H-1B allows US businesses to hire foreign nationals for specialised jobs that need for theoretical or technical competence. It is essential to the hiring of tens of thousands of workers each year from nations like China and India by technology companies.
The US also grants professionals wishing to work there the L-1 type of work visa.
The L-1 visa is given to those who are already employed by the company in another country and are just migrating to an American office, in contrast to the H-1B visa, which is given to people who are wishing to join an American company.
Dick Durbin and Charles Grassley, two prominent senators, have presented this legislation in the US Senate.
Senators Tommy Tuberville, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, and Richard Blumenthal are among the co-sponsors.
A media release on Tuesday stated that the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would increase transparency in the hiring of foreign workers, decrease fraud and abuse in the immigration system, and safeguard American workers and visa holders. According to the proposal, firms seeking to hire L-1 and H-1B workers would be subject to new salary, recruitment, and attestation standards, and employers wishing to hire H-1B workers would be required to publish their job openings on the Department of Labor (DOL) website.
The plan also calls for reforming the H-1B programme by prioritising the issuance of H-1B visas for workers with higher levels of education in STEM and changing the definition of a “specialty occupation” to require a bachelor’s degree or higher. It also calls for granting DOL the authority to impose a fee on labour condition applications and using it to hire 200 additional DOL employees.
The proposed law calls for changes to the L-1 nonimmigrant programme, including increased deadlines and proof standards for petitions from a “new office” and a demand that the Department of State cooperate in vetting overseas affiliates.
According to Democratic Party Senator Durbin, outsourcing firms have been using legal loopholes to oust talented American workers in favour of foreign workers who are paid less and are subjected to abusive working conditions. “These policies damage all workers and lessen our nation’s appeal to the best talent in the world. Our proposal will correct these flawed systems, safeguard employees, and stop these abuses, he said.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley claimed that the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes were created to supplement, not replace, the high-skilled labour population in the United States.
“However, some businesses have taken advantage of these programmes to replace American workers with less expensive labour, which ultimately hurts both domestic workers and foreign labour. Our plan prioritises American workers and makes sure that the programmes advance worker justice for all,” he stated.
Longtime supporters of the reform of the H-1B and L-1 visas, Durbin and Grassley, initially put forth the proposal in 2007.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, according to its authors, will limit these abuses by addressing loopholes in these programmes.
According to the media release, the measure will also target businesses who hire a lot of H-1B and L-1 workers in order to oust Americans and enable the outsourcing of American jobs.
Several recent layoffs at businesses like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have resulted in the loss of employment for thousands of highly qualified foreign-born workers in the US, including Indians.
The Washington Post reports that since November of last year, about 200,000 IT workers have lost their jobs.
According to industry sources, between 30 and 40% of them are Indian IT professionals, many of whom are in possession of H-1B and L1 visas.