WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced bipartisan, legislation to reform and close loopholes in the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will reduce fraud and abuse, provide protections for American workers and visa holders, and require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers. This comprehensive overhaul of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs will protect American workers and crack down on foreign outsourcing companies, which exploit these visa programs to deprive qualified Americans of high-skilled jobs. Durbin and Grassley first introduced the legislation in 2007 and have been long-time advocates for H-1B and L-1 visa reform. Along with Durbin and Grassley, the legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component to fixing America’s broken immigration system,” Durbin said. “For years, outsourcing companies have used legal loopholes to displace qualified American workers, exploit foreign workers, and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. Our legislation would fix these broken programs, protect workers, and put an end to these abuses.”
“Congress created the H-1B and L-1 visa 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.
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 STEM advanced degree students educated in the United States receive preference for an H-1B visa, and also prioritize other U.S. 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, and clarifies that the 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.
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 includes 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 do not 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.
A copy of the bill text can be found here.