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A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers this week introduced legislation to reform and close loopholes in the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) offered the Senate version of the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, which prioritizes American workers and restore fairness in visa programs for skilled foreign workers. U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.-09), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.-04), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.-17), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.-06), and Lance Gooden (R-Texas-05) introduced an identical version of the bill in the House of Representatives. The legislation reinstates 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 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. For years, outsourcing companies have used loopholes in the laws to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. Our legislation would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation,” Durbin said.
“These vital visa programs were intended to support America’s high-skilled workforce. Sadly, certain corporations and bad actors have abused loopholes in the laws to undermine American workers. This bipartisan fix will put American workers first and ensure fairness for visa applicants who developed their skills here in the United States. Most important, it will implant safeguards to protect American labor and prevent the exploitation of visa workers,” Pascrell said.
“The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will curtail the discrimination against high-skilled Americans by foreign outsourcing companies. This proposal includes necessary reforms to protect United States workers from job outsourcing and provides additional authority to the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to crack down on visa abuse. I am proud to prioritize American workers and to work with Rep. Pascrell on the reintroduction of this important bipartisan legislation. The millions of Americans seeking wage growth and employment opportunities should not have to compete with foreign outsourcing companies and cheaper foreign labor,” Gosar said.
“American immigrants come to this country with some of the most innovative, transformative ideas this world has ever seen. If we’re going to continue to foster a culture of creativity, we must reform the H-1 and L-1 visa programs to protect all workers from abuses. Immigrants coming here on H-1B visas have made important contributions to Silicon Valley’s leadership in the digital revolution. We want to make sure that talent is coming to the US, but we also want to make sure that it’s being done with proper compensation. Proud to join Rep. Pascrell in this effort,” Khanna said.
“We must ensure that qualified American workers have access to job opportunities in this country. Unfortunately, many companies use loopholes in immigration visa programs to replace these workers and outsource jobs. Reforming these programs and requiring a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers is critical to helping people get back to work during this difficult time and will help prevent the exploitation of foreign workers. I thank my friend, Congressman Pascrell, for reintroducing this important legislation and look forward to working with him to address this issue in Congress,” Pallone said.
“These deeply flawed programs harm our workforce while displacing our best and brightest for cheaper alternatives. This legislation will put an end to that and root out exploitation of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to defend American workers and fix our broken system,” Gooden said.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act 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, including 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, clarifying that 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. These provisions address the types of abuses that have been well-documented.
Importantly, the legislation will 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 gives the U.S. 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.
In addition, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act encompasses several reforms of the L-1 visa program, including establishment of a wage floor for L-1 workers; authority for the U.S. 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.