In November, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Assistant Democratic Leader, introduced a new bipartisan legislation seeking to reform and reduce fraud and abuse in certain programs for foreign workers working temporarily in the United States. This bill, or the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, stems from ongoing criticism of the H-1B Visa Program, among other programs, because of the accusation that large outsourcing companies have been abusing the system. Senators Durbin and Grassley have said that the abuse is “real” and the need for reform is urgent. Senator Grassley has also said that the media are validating the fact that Americans are training their replacements, something that Grassley and Durbin have been arguing against for years.

Senator Durbin and Senator Grassley have been trying to reform the H-1B program since 2007. In the spring of 2007, they introduced “The H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007” to overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programs by giving priority to American workers and regulate employers who may be depriving qualified Americans of high-skill jobs. Senator Durbin said that the United States’ immigration policy should “seek to complement our U.S. workforce, not replace it.” Today, Durbin and Grassley continue to argue that large foreign outsourcing companies may use loopholes in the laws to displace qualified Americans and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. These and other concerns are echoed today through the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act.

For this current legislation, they have more support than they did several years ago because they have three senate co-sponsors: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The proposed legislation addresses reforms to increase enforcement, modify wage requirements, and ensure protection for American workers as well as visa holders.

A few highlights of the bill include:

  • Requiring all employers who seek to hire H-1B worker to first put a strong effort to recruit American workers before turning to other countries
  • Prioritizing the annual allocation of H-1B visas: Currently, many large IT services companies receive more than half of the annual visa allotment which lowers the chances of employers trying to hire a smaller number of workers. The bill will prohibit large companies from hiring H-1B workers if more than 50% of their employees are on H-1B or L-1 visas.
  • Prohibiting the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders.
  • Giving graduates of United States universities preference in the visa distribution.
  • Giving the Department of Labor enhanced authority to review, investigate and audit employer compliance as well as to penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct.

This bill is just one of many proposed legislation related to immigration that are circulating around the Senate and the House this year. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is sponsoring the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) bill which would raise the annual cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to between 115,000 and 195,000. Senator Blumenthal is a co-sponsor for this legislation as well. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has also said he is working on an H-1B reform bill.

Read the full text of the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2015 here.

For further information on the proposed legislation, refer to the articles below:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/h1b-visa-reform-bill-introduced-in-us-senate/article7865972.ece

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/us/large-companies-game-h-1b-visa-program-leaving-smaller-ones-in-the-cold.html

http://www.computerworld.com/article/3003877/it-careers/sens-grassley-durbin-launch-new-h-1b-fight.html

http://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/grassley-durbin-push-for-h-1b-l-1-visa-reforms

http://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-durbin-push-h-1b-and-l-1-visa-reforms

http://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-and-durbin-introduce-first-bipartisan-h-1b-l-1-visa-reform-bill-protect