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Biden Adminstration Urged To Implement H1B Visa Programme Reforms

Jha Washington, Mar 3: A bipartisan group of two powerful American Senators on Wednesday urged the President Joe Biden administration to implement the H-1B visa programme reforms issued by the Donald Trump government in January, under which the visas were to be issued on the criteria of wages and not by a computerised draw of lots. In a notification issue on January 8, the Trump administration had sought to issue H-1B visas to employers offering the highest wages in the area of employment before being allocated to other petitioners.

Five weeks later, the Biden administration on February 4, announced a delay in the effective date of the H-1B selection rule from March 9 to December 31, 2021. The Department of Homeland Security has announced going back to the lottery system. “We were disappointed to learn of this delay, as the H-1B visa programme is greatly in need of reform, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a letter to the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The practical effect of this delay is that outsourcing companies will continue to game the lottery system and secure thousands of new H-1B visas for financial year 2022 since the H-1B filing season begins in a few weeks. This will facilitate these companies’ efforts to continue outsourcing American jobs, they wrote. We believe the H-1B visa programme must be reformed to stop abuse. Implementing a reasonable allocation of visas as the H-1B selection rule would do is a meaningful step toward reform to protect American workers. We urge you to expeditiously implement the rule, the two Senators said.

According to a May 4, 2020 analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a majority of H-1B employers use the visa programme to pay migrant workers below-market wages, and half of the top 30 H-1B employers use an outsourcing business model, they said. This is simply unacceptable and does not reflect how Congress intended the H-1B programme to work. While Congress should pass legislation to overhaul the H-1B visa program, DHS and the Department of Labor should use their robust regulatory authority to reform the H-1B program to protect American workers from displacement and migrant workers from exploitation, the Senators wrote.

Observing that establishing an equitable distribution of new visas is a key starting point to ensuring that the H-1B visa program is not used to lower wages and displace American workers, they said that the annual H-1B visa lottery has been abused for years by outsourcing companies. Employers offering high wages to international graduates of American universities often lose out in the H-1B lottery, while thousands of new H-1B visas are issued each year to outsourcing companies offering below-market wages and seeking to offshore American jobs, they wrote. Durbin and Grassley said that the H-1B selection rule is a reasonable regulatory reform that will improve the H-1B visa program for American and immigrant workers, and American employers. We disagree with the decision to institute a lengthy delay to the effective date of the H-1B selection rule, and we urge DHS to retain and implement the rule as soon as possible ideally before the upcoming April 2021 lottery so that outsourcing companies cannot continue to game the system at the expense of American workers, as they have done for far too long, they wrote. In January, the then President Donald Trump had extended the ban on issuing of new H-1B visas till March 31 arguing that the country is having a very high unemployment rate and the US cannot afford to have more foreign workers.

Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Card or permanent legal residency. The H-1B visa, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

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