Bill to reform H-1B visa process tabled in US Senate

Washington: Seeking to comprehensively overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programs, a bipartisan group of influential senators has introduced legislation in the US Senate, which they argued will protect American workers and crack down on foreign outsourcing companies that exploit these popular visa programs to deprive qualified Americans of high-skilled jobs.

The H-1B visa program is the most sought-after work visa among foreign professionals, including Indians. The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for the purpose of work in L-1 status. It is valid for a relatively short amount of time.

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will reduce fraud and abuse, provide protections for American workers and visa holders, and require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers, the senators said.

Introduced by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal, Tommy Tuberville, Sherrod Brown, Bill Hagerty, and Bernie Sanders.

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will require US Citizenship and Immigration Services to prioritize for the first time the annual allocation of H-1B visas. The new system would ensure that the best and brightest STEM advanced degree students educated in the United States receive preference for an H-1B visa, and also prioritize other US advanced degree holders, those being paid a high wage, and those with valuable skills.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

The legislation explicitly prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders and clarifies that the working conditions of similarly employed American workers may not be adversely affected by the hiring of an H-1B worker, including H-1B workers who have been placed by another employer at the American worker’s worksite, a media release said.

“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component to fixing America’s broken immigration system,” Durbin said. “For years, outsourcing companies have used legal loopholes to displace qualified American workers, exploit foreign workers, and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. Our legislation would fix these broken programs, protect workers, and put an end to these abuses,” he said.

“Congress created the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to complement America’s high-skilled workforce, not replace it. Unfortunately, some companies are trying to exploit the programs by cutting American workers for cheaper labor. We need programs dedicated to putting American workers first,” Grassley said.

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