WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dick Durbin, Assistant Democratic Leader, today are introducing bipartisan legislation that would reform the H-1B visa program, consistent with Congress’s original intent, by ensuring that qualified American workers are given the first opportunity at high-skilled job opportunities. The legislation makes reforms to increase enforcement, modify wage requirements and ensure protection for American workers as well as visa holders. Grassley and Durbin first introduced this legislation in 2007 and have been long-time proponents of H-1B reform.
“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. 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,” Grassley said. “There’s a sense of urgency here 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. Reform of the H-1B visa program must be a priority.”
“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system and must be included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation,” said Durbin. “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. I thank Senator Grassley for partnering with me on this important bipartisan legislation.”
Grassley and Durbin’s efforts have long focused on making qualified American workers the first priority for employers. The bill, as in previous years, requires all employers who seek to hire H-1B visa holders to first make a good faith effort to recruit American workers.
The bill would also 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 these workers back to their home country to do the work of Americans.
The bill also gives the 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.
The bill clarifies that working conditions of similarly employed American workers may not be adversely affected by the hiring of the H-1B worker, including H-1B workers who have been placed by another employer at the American worker’s worksite. In addition, it explicitly prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders. These provisions address the types of abuses that have been well-documented in recent press reports.
The Grassley-Durbin reform bill will for the first time prioritize 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. The preference system also gives a leg up to advanced degree holders, those being paid a high wage, and those with valuable skills.
In addition, the bill includes several reforms of the L-1 visa program. These include 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.