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H-1B visa programme faces onslaught of Congressional bills

Washington: With the Trump administration seriously mulling H-1B visa reforms, at least half a dozen bills have been tabled in the US House of Representatives and the Senate, contending that the programme that is popular among Indian IT firms is eating into American jobs.

Authors of all these bills from both the Republican and the Democratic parties believe that H-1B work visas, which are highly popular among Indian techies and Indian IT companies, tend to replace American workers.

Even though this argument is disputed by research scholars, economists and Silicon Valley executives, these legislations are based on the premise that Indian techies are eating into American jobs.

In less than a week of Trump being sworn in as the 45th US President, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin, introduced the “H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act” to prioritise American workers and restore fairness in visa programmes for skilled workers.

Grassley is Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.

Among other things, the H1-B reform bill proposes to eliminate the lottery system and give foreign students educated in the US priority on visas.

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.

It also explicitly prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders. The bill among other things would also crackdown 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, it 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, a statement said.

It explicitly prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders. These provisions address the types of abuses that have been well-documented in recent press reports.

Democrat Zoe Lofgren — who represents a Congressional district in California that includes Silicon Valley — introduced ‘The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017’.

As soon as the bill, which proposes a skill and wage- based system for allocation of H-1B visas and seeks to more than double the minimum wage for an H-1B visa holder to USD 130,000, was introduced, stocks of major Indian information technology went down and rattled the USD 150-billion outsourcing industry.