New York, March 29 (IANS) In a bid to fix America's broken immigration system, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the US Senate to reform and close loopholes in the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes.
Introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin, 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 comprehensive overhaul of the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes will protect American workers and crack down on foreign outsourcing companies, which exploit these visa programs to deprive qualified Americans of high-skilled jobs.
The two visa programmes were created to complement America's high-skilled workforce.
"Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component to fixing America's broken immigration system. 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," Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said.
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that permits US companies to hire foreign workers in speciality occupations, which require theoretical or technical expertise. The L-1 visa is issued to those who are already employed by the company in another country, and who are merely relocating to an American office.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will require US Citizenship and Immigration Services to prioritise for the first time the annual allocation of H-1B visas, a statement released by Grassley's office said.
It said that the new system would ensure that the best and brightest STEM advanced degree students educated in the US receive preference for an H-1B visa, and it also prioritises other US advanced degree holders -- those being paid a high wage, and those with valuable skills.
The legislation explicitly prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders, and it 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.
Importantly, the legislation will crack down on outsourcing companies that import large numbers of these workers for temporary training purposes only to send the workers back to their home countries to do the same job. The authors of the legislation said that the bill would specifically prohibit companies with more than 50 employees, of which at least half are H-1B or L-1 holders, from hiring additional H-1B employees.
This move will give the US Department of Labor enhanced authority to review, investigate and audit employer compliance with programme requirements, as well as to penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct.
The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal, Tommy Tuberville, Sherrod Brown, Bill Hagerty, and Bernie Sanders.
Grassley and Durbin first introduced the legislation in 2007 and have been long-time advocates for H-1B and L-1 visa reform.