Earlier this week, a group of influential US lawmakers introduced legislation in the Senate to comprehensively overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programs and bring more transparency to the recruitment of foreign workers.
The legislation aims to reduce fraud and abuse in the immigration system, provide protections for American workers and visa holders, and require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers.
What are H-1B and L-1 visas?
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US businesses to hire foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical knowledge.
It is widely used by technology companies to hire tens of thousands of employees from countries such as India and China each year. The L-1 visa, on the other hand, is granted to individuals who are already employed by the company in another country and are relocating to an American office.
What does the legislation propose?
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley, seeks to impose new wage, recruitment, and attestation requirements on employers seeking to hire L-1 and H-1B workers.
The bill also proposes granting the Department of Labor (DOL) the authority to levy a fee on labour condition applications and use the proceeds to hire an additional 200 DOL employees, reforming the H-1B programme by prioritising H-1B visa issuance for workers with higher levels of education in STEM and changing the definition of a “speciality occupation” to require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The legislation also seeks to reform the L-1 nonimmigrant program, including new time limits and evidentiary requirements for petitions from a “new office” and mandating cooperation from the Department of State in verifying foreign affiliates.
What do the Senators say about the legislation?
Senator Durbin stated that outsourcing companies have exploited legal loopholes to evict qualified American workers and replace them with foreign workers who are paid low wages and subjected to exploitative working conditions.
He went on to say that the legislation would fix these broken programmes, protect workers, and end these abuses.
Senator Grassley stated that the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes were created to fill gaps in America’s high-skilled workforce rather than to replace it. He went on to say that the bill would prioritise American workers and ensure that the programmes promoted fairness for all workers.
Impact on highly skilled foreign-born workers
Thousands of highly skilled foreign-born workers, including Indians, have lost their jobs in the United States as a result of recent layoffs at companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
Since November of last year, nearly 200,000 IT workers have been laid off, according to The Washington Post. According to industry insiders, 30 to 40% of them are Indian IT professionals, with a significant number on H-1B and L1 visas.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act seeks to reform visa programmes in order to protect American workers and visa holders while also ensuring fairness for all workers. The bill also proposes giving the Department of Labor more authority to ensure transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers. If passed, the bill will have a significant impact on visa programmes and hiring practices in the United States.
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