Durbin and Grassley introduce bipartisan legislation on H-1B, L-1 visa reform

Durbin also introduces bill to eliminate green card backlog, protect ‘aging’ children and lift country limits

Two leading US senators have introduced bipartisan legislation that would prioritize holders of advanced US degrees in the distribution of highly skilled work visas, scrapping the current lottery system.

Legislation “to reform and close loopholes in the H-1B and L-1 visa programs” was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday by Senate Democratic Majority Whip Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

H-1B visas are used by US companies to employ highly skilled foreign workers in specialized occupations. L-1 visas are available for intra-corporate transferees who hold management positions or have specialized knowledge. Indian professionals make extensive use of these visas.

Read: How Biden’s presidency may affect H-1B and L-1 visas (January 25, 2021)

Durbin also separately introduced legislation to eliminate the backlog of family and professional green cards by increasing the number of green cards. An estimated 1.2 million people, a majority of them Indians, are stuck in a decades-long backlog of green cards.

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will reduce fraud and abuse, provide protections for U.S. workers and visa holders, and require more transparency in recruiting foreign workers, according to a press release from the Durban office.

This comprehensive overhaul of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs will protect American workers and crack down on foreign contracting companies, which exploit these visa programs to deny qualified Americans high-skilled jobs, he said. he declares.

Durbin and Grassley first introduced the legislation in 2007 and have long been advocates of H-1B and L-1 visa reform.

“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical part of fixing America’s flawed immigration system,” Durbin said. “For years, outsourcing companies have used loopholes to displace skilled American workers, exploit foreign workers, and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. Our legislation would fix these broken programs, protect workers, and end the these abuses.

“Congress created the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to complement America’s highly skilled workforce, not replace it,” he said. “Our bill takes steps to ensure the programs work for Americans and skilled foreign workers,” Grassley said.

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act will require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to prioritize the annual issuance of H-1B visas for the first time.

The new system would ensure that the best and brightest US-educated STEM graduate students receive preference for an H-1B visa, and would also prioritize other US higher degree holders, those who receive high salaries and those with valuable skills, the statement said.

The legislation explicitly prohibits the replacement of U.S. workers with H-1B or L-1 visa holders, and specifies that the working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers cannot be affected by the hiring of an H worker. -1B, including H-1B. workers who have been placed by another employer at the U.S. worker’s job site.

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. work.

Specifically, the bill would prohibit companies with more than 50 employees, at least half of whom are H-1B or L-1 incumbents, from hiring additional H-1B employees.

The bill gives the U.S. Department of Labor expanded powers to review, investigate, and verify employers’ compliance with program requirements, as well as to sanction fraudulent or abusive behavior.

This requires the production of detailed statistical data on the H-1B and L-1 programs, including data on wages, worker education levels, location of work, and gender.

In addition, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act includes several reforms to the L-1 visa program, including establishing a salary floor for L-1 workers; authority for the US Department of Homeland Security to investigate, verify, and enforce the requirements of the L-1 program; ensuring that intra-corporate transfers occur between legitimate branches of a corporation and do not involve “fictitious” facilities; and a change to the definition of “specialty knowledge” to ensure that L-1 visas are reserved only for genuinely key personnel.

A copy of the text of the bill can be found here.

Durbin also presented on Tuesday the Resolution of Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families Act (RELIEF)legislation to eliminate the backlog of family and professional green cards by increasing the number of green cards.

Nearly four million future Americans are on the State Department’s immigrant visa waiting list, in addition to hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the United States who are also waiting for green cards, according to a press release. published by his office.

However, under current law, only 226,000 family green cards and 140,000 employment green cards are available each year. Children and spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) are included in these figures, further limiting the number of green cards available.

“America is a nation of immigrants. But without enough green cards available each year, immigrant families are stuck in crippling backlogs for years, if not decades,” Durbin said.

“The solution to this backlog is clear: increase the number of green cards. This common-sense legislation will finally eliminate the backlog of family and employment green cards, solving one of the most serious problems of our country’s broken immigration system.

Read: Grassley and Durbin introduce bipartisan legislation on H-1B, L-1 visa reform (March 3, 2022)

In addition to eliminating the backlog of family and employment green cards within five years, the bill will help keep American families together by classifying spouses and children of LPRs as immediate relatives and exempting beneficiaries derived from petitions based on employment of annual green card limits, will protect “aging out” children who qualify for LPR status based on a parent’s immigration petition and waive the limitations by country, the statement said.

More specifically, the RELIEF law:
Eliminate the backlog of family and professional green cards within five years in the order in which the applications were filed;
Keep American families together by classifying spouses and children of LPRs as immediate relatives and exempting derivative beneficiaries of employment-based petitions from annual green card limits;
Protect “aging” children who qualify for LPR status based on a parent’s immigration application; and lifting country limitations.

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