U.S. lawmakers propose restrictions on H-1B, L1

Tighter norms:Before the bill is signed by U.S. President Obama, it has to be passed by the Senate. — FILE PHOTO  

Two U.S lawmakers have introduced a new piece of legislation in the House of Representatives in another move to recast the H-1B and L1 visa programmes that allow thousands of Indian skilled workers to move to the U.S.

The new bill proposes to bar companies that have more than 50 employees, and fifty percent of them on H1-B, L1 visas, from hiring more such workers. It would, instead, encourage companies to recruit American workers. It proposes new wage requirements for H-1B visa-holders and establishment of wage requirements for L1 workers.

It would also provide more authority to the Departments of Homeland Security and Labour to investigate fraud and abuse in the H-1B and L-1 programs. Visa-holders will be given a list of rights to protect them from exploitation, according to the proposed bill, Representatives Bill Pascrell and Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement.

The bill echoes concerns that critics of the H-1B, L1 visas have been raising for years – that companies are using the programmes to undercut American workers; that they are replacing American workers, a practice the existing guidelines prohibit. Companies are also accused of exploiting workers on visas. The same members had moved a similar bill in 2010 also, but such proposals have not gained enough momentum yet, to be passed into law.

India impact

If the bill is signed into law, it would have a bearing on the U.S. operations of Indian companies. For instance, Google or Microsoft can continue to hire workers on visas until 50 percent of their employees are visa-holders. But Indian companies, such as Infosys, Wipro or TCS that already have more than 50 percent of their employees on visas, could be prevented from hiring more visa-holders.

Last year, when additional visa fees were introduced for H-1B and L1 categories, the ‘50-50’ provision made it applicable primarily to Indian companies. Therefore, this year, on each H-1B visa, an Indian company paid nearly $ 5000 more than an American company would have. “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,” Mr. Pascrell said.