WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016, bipartisan legislation to overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to protect workers and crack down on foreign outsourcing companies which deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-48).
“America is producing many skilled, high-tech professionals with advanced degrees and no jobs. By 'in-sourcing' and exploiting foreign workers, some businesses are abusing the visa programs and undercutting our workforce to reap the rewards," said Rep. Pascrell.
"Without the critical reforms our bill proposes, American workers will continue to be unfairly displaced and visa workers will continue to be mistreated – both of which are unacceptable."
Foreign outsourcing companies are the top users of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. Over the years a number of concerns have been raised about how certain companies have been using these visa programs, including a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office calling for reform. Reps. Pascrell and Rohrabacher introduced a similar version of this bill in 2010.
The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016 would close loopholes in the H-1B and L-1 visa programs, reduce fraud and abuse, provide protections for American workers and visa holders, require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers, and increase penalties on those who violate the law. Specifically, the bill would:
• Require employers to make a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers before bringing in visa workers and prohibit employers from replacing American workers or giving preference to visa holders when they are filling open positions
• Prohibit companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50% of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.
• Provide more authority to the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to investigate fraud and abuse in the H-1B and L-1 programs
• Modify existing H-1B wage requirements, and establish wage requirements for L-1 workers
• Provide visa holders with a list of rights before they enter the U.S. so that they are better protected against mistreatment or underpayment of wages
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have endorsed the bill. "We applaud [the] long-term commitment to addressing the glaring gaps in protections in our current skilled visa programs," AFL-CIO Government Affairs Department Director William Samuel wrote in support of the bill.
"These loopholes have resulted in the mistreatment of H-1B workers and U.S. workers alike, and have led to the egregious displacement scandals that continue to make headlines and discredit these programs. There are tens of thousands of high-skilled workers and visa beneficiaries within the membership of AFL-CIO unions, and we are deeply committed to ensuring program reforms that support the rights and interests of all workers in these industries."
"It is more than clear that the H-1B and L-1 visa programs are being used by major companies across our economy to hire cheap, disposable workers in place of their American employees," IEEE President Peter Eckstein wrote in support of the bill.
"Reports of Americans being fired and replaced by non-Americans, who will never be invited to become Americans, can no longer be dismissed as mere 'anecdotes.' Rather, outsourcing companies dominate the H-1B and L-1 programs, annually costing America tens of thousands of good, middle-class jobs."
Background The H-1B visa program allows employers to hire nonimmigrant aliens in specialty occupations temporarily. The program is intended to provide companies with specialized workers in instances where their skills or qualifications are not available among U.S. workers. The L-1 visa program allows companies with offices in the U.S. and abroad to temporarily transfer certain foreign employees to the U.S. to work.