US bill aims to make it tough to hire foreign workers

April 24th, 2009 - 9:35 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 24 (IANS) Two US senators have introduced a bill to make it tougher for American firms to employ foreign professionals under its H-1B and L1 visa programmes utilised the most by Indians and the Chinese.

The bill introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin Given Thursday would require US firms looking for skilled foreign professionals to make a “good faith” attempt to employ Americans first before seeking foreign workers.

Indian professionals followed by those from China account for the maximum number of H-1Bs visa designed to bring highly skilled professionals here. L1 B visas are for skilled workers. However, the recession and fears of restrictive legislation has already dampened enthusiasm for these visas.

Despite an extension of date twice, only 44,000 H-1B visa applications have been received against the existing cap of 65,000.

“Our bill will put a stop to the outsourcing of American jobs and discrimination against American workers,” Durbin said. “The H-1B visa programme should complement the US workforce, not replace it.”

The bill would prohibit the practice of ‘H-1B only’ ads and prevents employers from hiring additional H-1B and L1 guest workers if over 50 percent of their employees are H-1B and L1 visa holders, Grassley said.

It would also empower to the Department of Labour to investigate, audit and penalise abuse of H-1B and L1 visa employers.

However, Grassley said the bill does not eliminate the programme or change the numerical cap of visas available to petitioning employers.

“The H-1B programme was never meant to replace qualified American workers. It was meant to complement them because of a shortage of workers in specialised fields. In tough economic times like we’re seeing, it’s even more important that we do everything possible to see that Americans are given every consideration when applying for jobs,” he said.

If there are not qualified Americans, companies can use the legal immigration programmes available, “but we must return the H-1B and L visa programmes back to their original intent,” Grassley said.

Durbin said the H-1B visa programme is currently being used by some companies to outsource American jobs to foreign countries.

Grassley and Durbin were mainly instrumental in the passage of a law early this year to stop hiring of foreign workers by US companies receiving the federal bailout funds.

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