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US lawmakers call for H-1B, L-1 reforms

The H-1B allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations while L-1 visa allows companies to open a U.S. operation for the transfer of its executives, managers and specialized employees.

Representative image (Image: US Embassy and Consulates in India)

In an effort to reduce fraud and abuse in the United States immigration system, and bring more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers legislation a bill has been introduced in the Senate to reform H-1B and L-1 visa programs.

According to a press note by the Judiciary committee the legislation assumes significance as it comes in the midst of the H-1B filing season, when tech companies are applying for new visas although the industry has laid off thousands of American and immigrant workers.

The legislation, introduced by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposes new wage, recruitment, and attestation requirements for employers intending to hire L-1 and H-1B workers.

It also asks employers to post job openings (for H-1B employees) on the Department of Labor (DOL) website for both US workers and laid-off H-1B nonimmigrants. In addition, it introduces reforms to the H-1B program by prioritizing the H-1B visa issuance for workers with higher levels of education in STEM and amending the definition of a "speciality occupation" to require a bachelor's degree or higher qualification.

Meanwhile, the reforms to the L-1 nonimmigrant program include new time limits and evidentiary requirements for petitions from a “new office” and mandating cooperation from the Department of State in verifying foreign affiliates.

Durbin and Grassley first introduced the legislation in 2007. Durbin noted that outsourcing companies have used legal loopholes to displace qualified American workers and replace them with foreign workers who are paid subpar wages.

“The H-1B and L-1 visa programs were established to fill in gaps in America’s high-skilled workforce, not supplant it. Unfortunately, some companies have exploited these programs to replace American workers with cheaper labor, which ultimately harms American workers and foreign labor alike. Our bill puts American workers first and ensures that the programs promote fairness for all workers,” Grassley said.