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US bill seeks to check H1B visa abuses

Washington, Mar 19, 2013 (PTI)
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A top American Senator has introduced a legislation that he claims is aimed at eliminating fraud and abuse of the H-1B visa programme, but provisions of which would make it tougher for Indian-Americans to get this popular work visa.

Among other things, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2013 ensures that an H-1B application filed by an employer that employs 50 or more US workers will not be accepted unless the employer attests that less than 50 per cent of the employer's workforce are H-1B and L visa holders.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, makes reforms to increase enforcement, modify wage requirements and ensure protection for visa holders and American workers.

"Somewhere along the line, the H-1B programme got side-tracked. The programme was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialised areas of employment. When times are tough, like they are now, it's especially important that Americans get every consideration before an employer looks to hire from abroad," Grassley said.

"The legislation will benefit the American worker, while still ensuring that US companies get the specialised workers they need," he added.

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act requires all companies to make a good faith effort to hire Americans first; requires prospective H-1B employers to list available positions on a Department of Labor sponsored website for a period of 30 days prior to petitioning for foreign labor; prohibits employers from advertising only to H-1B visa holders and prohibits companies from outsourcing visa holders to other companies.

A waiver is provided for companies that can attest that they have not displaced a US worker, and if it is not a "labor for hire" arrangement.

It also provides that the wages paid to H-1B visa holders must be the highest of the locally-determined prevailing wage for the occupational classification in the area of employment; the median average wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; or the median wage for skill level two in the occupational classification found in the most recent occupational employment statistics survey.

The bill increases the ability of the departments of Labor and Homeland Security to enforce worker protections by allowing random audits, and removes burdensome requirements for initiating Department of Labor investigations and requires Department of Labor employees to share information about H-1B petitions with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

It requires that each employer filing an application for an H-1B visa holder must submit to the Department of Labor the W-2 tax form for each H-1B visa holder employed during the previous period.

It also increases fines per violation from USD 1000 to USD 2000 and from USD 5000 to USD 10,000 for willful misrepresentation and restricts the ability of these companies to participate in the future recruiting of such employees.

The bill requires an L visa holder to prove that a legitimate business is being set up in the US, modifies the wage requirements and outplacement rules, provides L visa holders with a brochure about their rights, and requires a report on the blanket petition application process.


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