Durbin, Grassley, Pascrell, Gosar Lead Overhaul To H-1B, L-1 Visa Programs

Bipartisan, Bicameral Reforms Will Protect American Workers And Improve Fairness For Skilled Labor Applicants

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), along with U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04), introduced bipartisan, bicameral 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 complete overhaul of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs will protect American workers and crack down on foreign outsourcing companies, which deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs.  Durbin and Grassley first introduced the legislation in 2007 and have been long-time advocates for H-1B and L-1 reform.

“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system,” Durbin said.  “For years, outsourcing companies have used loopholes in the laws to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs.  Our legislation would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation.”

“Congress created these 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.

“These vital visa programs were intended to support America’s high-skilled workforce. Sadly, certain corporations and bad actors have abused loopholes in the laws to undermine American workers,” said Pascrell.  “This bipartisan fix will put American workers first and ensure fairness for visa applicants who developed their skills here in the United States.  Most important, it will implant safeguards to protect American labor and prevent the exploitation of visa workers."

“The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will curtail the discrimination against high-skilled Americans by foreign outsourcing companies,” said Gosar.  “This proposal includes necessary reforms to protect United States workers from job outsourcing and provides additional authority to the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to crack down on visa abuse.  I am proud to prioritize American workers and to work with Rep. Pascrell on the reintroduction of this important bipartisan legislation.  The millions of Americans seeking wage growth and employment opportunities should not have to compete with foreign outsourcing companies and cheaper foreign labor.”

Along with Durbin and Grassley, the legislation is also cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).  Along with Reps. Pascrell and Gosar, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06), and Lance Gooden (R-TX-05).

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 students being educated in the United States receive preference for an H-1B visa, including 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, clarifying that 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.  These provisions address the types of abuses that have been well-documented.

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 encompasses 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 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.