The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017, which was proposed recently in the Senate by Sens. Grassley (R-IA) and Durbin (D-IL) has now been offered in the House. The text of the House version of the bill has not yet been made public but it is expected to mirror the Senate version of the bill. The House version has four co-sponsors, Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Dave Brat (R-VA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
The Senate version of the bill has yet to attract many co-sponsors – no Senators have co-sponsored it since the initial four co-sponsors were announced on January 20. This is not surprising. The 2015 version of the bill only ever attracted six Senators co-sponsorship. One of which, Jeff Sessions, is no longer in the Senate and is now the embattled Attorney General.
Nonetheless, Sen. Grassley has long been a foe of the H-1B visa. While his version of the bill may not get passed into law, it would not be surprising if many of the ideas and concepts that underlie the bill make up a future revision to the H-1B visa.
The press release offered by the four House members says that the bill would modify the H-1B and L-1 visa programs by:
- Requiring employers to make a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers before bringing in foreign workers and prohibits employers from replacing American workers with H-1B and L-1 workers or giving preference to H-1B visa holders when they are filling open positions.
- Modifying existing H-1B wage requirements, and establishes wage requirements for L-1 workers.
- Prohibiting employers from outsourcing H-1B and L-1 visa holders to other sites unless the employer obtains a waiver which is available only in limited circumstances when the rights of American workers are protected.
- Giving more authority to the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor to investigate fraud and abuse in the H-1B and L-1 programs by requiring the two departments to audit employers and share information, ensuring visa petitions are more effectively scrutinized.
- Prohibiting companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50% of their employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.
- Creating a new H-1B visa allocation system that gives top priority to workers who have earned advanced science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions.
- Increasing penalties on those who violate the law, and provides visa holders with a list of rights before they enter the U.S. to ensure they are better protected against mistreatment or underpayment of wages.