Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., assistant Democratic leader, have introduced a bipartisan legislation in the Senate seeking reform of the H-1B visa program and to modify wage requirements. It is cosponsored by Senators Bill Nelson, Richard Blumenthal and Sherrod Brown. It explicitly prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders.
“The H-1B visa program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly-specialized areas of employment that cannot be filled by Americans,” Grassley said. “The abuse of the system is real, and media reports are validating what we have argued against for years, including the fact that Americans are training their replacements.”
There is a sense of urgency for Americans who are losing their jobs to lesser-skilled workers who are coming in at lower wages on a visa program that has gotten away from its original intent, he said. “Reform of the H-1B visa program must be a priority,” Grassley stressed.
The bill would prohibit companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50 percent of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.
This provision would crack down on outsourcing companies that import large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers for short training periods and then send those same workers back to their home country to do the work of Americans, the senators said.
“For years, foreign outsourcing companies have used loopholes in the laws to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs,” Durbin said. “The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation.”
The bill would also give the Department of Labor enhanced authority to review, investigate and audit employer compliance, as well as to penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct. The bill says that working conditions of similarly-employed American workers may not be adversely affected by the hiring of the H-1B worker, including those who have been placed by another employer at the American worker’s worksite. Many companies hire workers from India on H-1B visas.
The Grassley-Durbin reform bill will, for the first time, prioritize the annual allocation of H-1B visas. In addition, the bill includes the 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.