A new legal immigration bill, targeting reform of the H-1B visa and L-1 visa program, was introduced in the House by four Congressmen, including Indian American Democrat from California, Ro Khanna. The other Representatives are: Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Dave Brat (R-VA), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
The bill, entitled ‘H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017’, would close loopholes in the H-1B and L visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse, provide protections for American workers and visa holders, and require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers, according to a press release.
The bipartisan legislation would overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to protect workers and crack down on foreign outsourcing companies which deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs, the press release added.
“We have skilled, high-tech professionals here in America. Many are unemployed and carrying the debt of advanced degrees. Some businesses, by ‘in-sourcing’ and exploiting foreign workers, are abusing the visa programs – undercutting our workforce to reap the rewards,” said Pascrell, in a statement. “Abusing the visa system to get cheap labor hurts the American middle class and is something I cannot accept. The critical reforms in this bill will support American workers and create safeguards against the exploitation of visa workers.”
Brat said in a statement: “U.S. immigration policy should serve the interests of the American worker. When I came to Congress I promised to examine where our immigration laws are falling short. Too often companies capitalize on the loopholes in our immigration system to displace high-skilled American workers in search of cheap labor. This bipartisan legislation presents a real opportunity to prevent fraud and abuse in our visa system so it better serves the American worker.”
Khanna said in a statement: “This legislation will offer reforms that eliminate the abuse of the H1-B visa program. As the son of immigrants, I know that immigrants strengthen our nation and economy. But we cannot allow for companies to underpay foreign workers and use them to replace American workers. Instead, we need American companies to invest in our own workforce. The bill will prevent the exploitation of foreign workers while still recognizing the contributions immigrants make to our economy.”
The H-1B visa program allows employers to hire nonimmigrant aliens in specialty occupations temporarily. The program is intended to provide companies with specialized workers in instances where their skills or qualifications are not available among U.S. workers. The L-1 visa program allows companies with offices in the U.S. and abroad to temporarily transfer certain foreign employees to the U.S. to work.
Foreign outsourcing companies are the top users of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. Some of these companies have been exploiting the H-1B and L-1 visas to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the eventual offshoring of American jobs. They import large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers for short training periods and then send these workers back to their home country to do the work of Americans.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 has the endorsement of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The bill, a companion to the Senate’s version sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), would restore Congress’s original intent for the H-1B and L-1 visa programs by:
- Requiring employers to make a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers before bringing in foreign workers and prohibits employers from replacing American workers with H-1B and L-1 workers or giving preference to H-1B visa holders when they are filling open positions.
- Modifying existing H-1B wage requirements, and establishes wage requirements for L-1 workers.
- Prohibiting employers from outsourcing H-1B and L-1 visa holders to other sites unless the employer obtains a waiver which is available only in limited circumstances when the rights of American workers are protected.
- Giving more authority to the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to investigate fraud and abuse in the H-1B and L-1 programs by requiring the two departments to audit employers and share information, ensuring visa petitions are more effectively scrutinized.
- Prohibiting companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50% of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.
- Creating a new H-1B visa allocation system that gives top priority to workers who have earned advanced science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions.
- Increasing penalties on those who violate the law, and provides visa holders with a list of rights before they enter the U.S. to ensure they are better protected against mistreatment or underpayment of wages.