Bill in US senate to cut H1-B visas by 15,000

High salary earners to get preference for visa in US

GN Bureau | December 9, 2015



Two American Senators have introduced legislation in the Senate proposing to cut the number of popular H-1B visas by 15,000. The bill makes it necessary that such a visa should be given to highest wage earner first.

Senator Bill Nelson of the Democratic Party, who is co-author of the legislation along with Jeff Sessions of the Republican Party, said "by cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified US workers."

Currently every year a maximum of 85,000 H-1B visas can be issued including 20,000 for those who completed higher education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The popular work visa has been given to a large number of IT professionals from India over the years.

The bill proposes to reduce the number of visas available by 15,000.

It would also require the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the allocation of these 70,000 H-1B visas to foreign workers based on their salary.
 
Nelson said the measure will help ensure that the H-1B visa programme is once again being used as it was originally intended: to attract foreign workers with highly specialised skills not found among the available US workforce.

Last month, Nelson and senators Chuck Grassley, Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin, assistant Democratic leader, Richard Blumenthal, and Sherrod Brown filed a separate piece of legislation to reform the H-1B visa programme. Specifically, it would prohibit any employer from replacing a US worker with an H-1B visa holder.

It would also require employers to prove that they first tried to recruit American workers prior to hiring an H-1B visa holder and bar companies that employ more than 50 people from hiring any additional H-1B employees if more than half of their employees are already H-1B visa holders, it added.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields.

“The H-1B visa programme 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 programme 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 per cent 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 these 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. The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation,” Durbin said.

The bill would also give the Department of Labour enhanced authority to review, investigate and audit employer compliance as well as to penalise 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 who have been placed by another employer at the American worker’s worksite.

It explicitly prohibits replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders.

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