Changes to H-1B, L-1 Programs Protect American Workers & Improve Fairness for Visa Applicants
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin this week will introduce legislation to prioritize American workers and restore fairness in visa programs for skilled foreign workers. Their legislation restores Congress’ original intent in the H-1B and L-1 visa programs by increasing enforcement, modifying wage requirements and securing protections for both American workers and visa holders.
“Congress created these 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. When skilled foreign workers are needed to meet the demands of our labor market, we must also ensure that visa applicants who honed their skills at American colleges and universities are a priority over the importation of more foreign workers. Our bill takes these steps to ensure that the programs work for Americans and skilled foreign workers alike,” Grassley said.
“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system and must be included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. For years, foreign outsourcing companies have used loopholes in the laws to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation. I thank Senator Grassley for partnering with me on this important bipartisan legislation,” Durbin said.
Grassley and Durbin first introduced this legislation in 2007, and have been long-time proponents of reforming the H-1B program to prioritize qualified American workers. The bill, as in previous years, requires all employers who seek to hire H-1B visa holders to first make a good faith effort to recruit American workers.
The bill will require U.S. 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 students being educated in the United States receive preference for an H-1B visa. The preference system also gives a leg up to advanced degree holders, those being paid a high wage, and those with valuable skills.
The bill would crack down on outsourcing companies that import large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers for temporary training purposes only to send the workers back to their home countries to do the same job. Specifically, the bill would 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.
The bill also gives the Department of Labor enhanced authority to review, investigate, and audit employer compliance with program requirements, as well as to penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct. It requires the production of extensive statistical data about the H-1B and L-1 programs, including wage data, worker education levels, place of employment and gender.
The bill clarifies that working conditions of similarly employed American workers may not be adversely affected by the hiring of the H-1B worker, including H-1B workers who have been placed by another employer at the American worker’s worksite. In addition, it explicitly prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders. These provisions address the types of abuses that have been well-documented in recent press reports.
In addition, the bill includes several reforms of the L-1 visa program. These include establishment of a wage floor for L-1 workers; authority for the Department of Homeland Security to investigate, audit and enforce compliance with L-1 program requirements; assurance that intra-company transfers occur between legitimate branches of a company and don’t involve “shell” facilities; and a change to the definition of “specialized knowledge” to ensure that L-1 visas are reserved only for truly key personnel.