Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the “H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act” on April 23, 2009. The Durbin-Grassley bill would:
- Require all employers who want to hire an H-1B worker to first make a good-faith attempt to recruit a qualified U.S. worker. Employers would be prohibited from using H-1B visa holders to displace qualified U.S. workers.
- Prohibit “H-1B only” ads and prohibit employers from hiring additional H-1B and L-1 workers if more than 50 percent of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.
- Permit the DOL to initiate investigations without a complaint and without the Labor Secretary’s personal authorization.
- Authorize the DOL to review H-1B applications for fraud.
- Allow the DOL to conduct random audits of any company that uses the H-1B program.
- Require the DOL to conduct annual audits of companies who employ large numbers of H-1B workers.
The Durbin-Grassley bill also would establish a process to investigate, audit, and penalize L-1 visa violations. The two senators introduced a similar bill in March 2007, which was folded into a comprehensive immigration reform bill that failed.
New Employee Verification Act
On April 23, 2009, Senators Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Sam Johnson (R-TX), among others, introduced the New Employee Verification Act (NEVA).
NEVA would require all employers to enroll in and verify the work authorization of new hires through one of two electronic employment verification systems—the Electronic Employment Verification System (EEVS) or the Secure Electronic Employment Verification System (SEEVS). The EEVS would be a new mandatory program that allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of workers. Employers enrolled in EEVS would be required to accept, as proof of an employee’s identity and work authorization, only documents from the program’s list of more secure verification and identification documents. The program would provide employment verification, based on the documents presented by the employees, for U.S. citizens through the Social Security Administration (SSA) and for noncitizens through the DHS. Information would be entered into the system through each state’s new hire reporting data entry system (the National Directory of New Hires).
The SEEVS would be an alternate voluntary system that would allow employers to authenticate a worker’s actual identity (not just the documents they present) and “lock” that identity with the worker’s biometric identifier. A network of government-certified, private sector experts would be created to authenticate new employees’ identities utilizing existing background check and document screening tools. These experts would safeguard the employee identity through biometrics and confirm the individual’s work authorization through the EEVS program.
Under NEVA, the current I-9 and E-Verify systems would remain intact (E-Verify would be extended) until the proposed new system has been implemented.
Meanwhile, President Obama reportedly plans to speak publicly about immigration issues in May and to convene working groups over the summer to discuss possible legislation.