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Proposed H-1B visa legislation adds cost burden on Indian students: Legal experts

A group of influential US senators have introduced a legislation in the Senate, seeking reforms in the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to protect American workers, by restricting foreign outsourcing of highly skilled professionals by major technology companies through a slew of proposed changes .

Among other things, the legislation also demands first preference for outsourced professionals with advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees from US universities having the brightest minds, high wages and valuable skills. Indians, who account for nearly 70 per cent of the H-1B visas being allotted every year, are likely to feel the brunt of this new proposed law.

Indian legal experts believe that this will further put additional burden on Indian parents and students to study in the US if they want to secure a job there.

H-1B and L-1 visas are the most sought-after non-immigrant visas by applicants and employers. It lets technology companies hire and outsource high quality talent from other countries, including India and China. L-1 visas are given for a comparatively shorter tenure.

Sonam Chandwani, Managing Partner at KS Legal & Associates, told Business Line: “Prioritising American workers was always the agenda. But most technology companies would prefer outsourcing highly skilled employees from countries like India and China, purely because of the quality of talent and also cheap labour. Though this is good for the American citizens, a policy like this will definitely impact Indian talent and also the technology companies. Their employee quality will get impacted and costs would shoot up and I think tech companies will voice concerns over such a move. Most Big Techs have Indian employees in senior leadership, CTO and CEO roles.”

She added: “A move like this will demotivate Indian students and their parents, who will have to manage an additional burden of studying in the US if they want to secure better jobs there. This, when the Indian education quality is at par with the US universities.”

The policy

The US senators justified bringing the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act by saying that this would reduce fraud and abuse, provide protection to American workers and visa holders, and require more transparency in the recruitment of foreign workers.

The senators who introduced the legislation include Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal, Tommy Tuberville, Sherrod Brown, Bill Hagerty and Bernie Sanders.

The legislation prohibits the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders, and specifies that the working conditions of similarly employed American workers will not be impacted by the hiring of an H-1B worker.

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

Additionally, the legislation will target 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.

The Bill will 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. The bill gives the US Department of Labor enhanced authority to review, investigate, and audit employer compliance with program requirements, as well as to penalise fraudulent or abusive conduct, a PTI report said.

Published on

March 03, 2022

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