Durbin, Grassley Introduce Bipartisan H-1B, L-1 Visa Reform Legislation To Protect Workers And Stop Outsourcing Of American Jobs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a 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 in our immigration system, provide protections for American workers and visa holders, and require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers.  The bill introduction comes in the midst of H-1B filing season, with tech companies applying for thousands of new H-1B visas despite the fact that the tech industry has recently laid off thousands of American and immigrant workers.  

“For years, outsourcing companies have used legal loopholes to displace qualified American workers and replace them with foreign workers who are paid subpar wages and put in exploitative working conditions,” Durbin said.  These actions hurt all workers and make our country less attractive to the world’s top talent. Our legislation would fix these broken programs, protect workers, and put an end to these abuses.”

“The H-1B and L-1 visa programs were established to fill in gaps in America’s high-skilled workforce, not supplant it.  Unfortunately, some companies have exploited these programs to replace American workers with cheaper labor, which ultimately harms American workers and foreign labor alike.  Our bill puts American workers first and ensures that the programs promote fairness for all workers,” Grassley said.

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 Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

The H-1B and L-1 visa programs are intended to create a pathway for U.S. companies to recruit highly-skilled noncitizens when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country.  Unfortunately, these programs are being abused by employers who displace U.S. workers and subject foreign workers to artificially depressed wages and poor working conditions.  Foreign workers in H-1B and L-1 status are vulnerable to abuse because they are tied to a single employer to maintain their temporary immigration status.  These vulnerabilities are exacerbated for those stuck in the green card backlog, who must maintain their temporary status while they wait for a green card to become available.   

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would stop these abuses by closing loopholes in these programs.  The bill would crack down on outsourcing companies that import large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers to displace American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs.  It would also give the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) new authorities and responsibilities to ensure that program requirements are enforced.

Specifically, this bipartisan bill would:

  • Place new wage, recruitment, and attestation requirements on employers seeking to hire L-1 and H-1B workers;
  • Require employers seeking to hire H-1B employees to post those jobs on a searchable DOL website, a resource for both U.S. workers and laid-off H-1B nonimmigrants;
  • Give DOL authority to place a fee on labor condition applications and use those fees to hire an additional 200 DOL employees;
  • Make reforms to the H-1B program, including by prioritizing H-1B visa issuance for workers with higher levels of education in STEM and amending the definition of a “specialty occupation” to require a bachelor’s degree or higher;
  • Make reforms to the L-1 nonimmigrant program, including new time limits and evidentiary requirements for petitions from a “new office” and mandating cooperation from the Department of State in verifying foreign affiliates; and,
  • Increase penalties for wage violations, including fines or debarment of employers.