One More Congressional Bill Introduced to Restrict H1B Visas

The anti-H1B visa movement is gaining steam as the April 3 start date for submitting petitions approaches.  Most observers expect the number of petition to at least equal that of previous years, with the majority submitted by IT outsourcing firms.  Many policy makers are pointing to this date as a symbol that unless something happens soon, another year of H1B visa program abuse will unfold without changes to the lottery.

Realistically, without a last-minute executive order, there are unlikely to be major changes to this year’s process.  There are rumors that there may be a new executive order soon on H1B visas, but nothing definitive has been announced.  Nonetheless, two lawmakers have just re-introduced a bill first proposed in January of 2016, the “Keeping American Jobs Act”.

Keeping American Jobs Act

This bill was first introduced in February 2016, but did not make it far.  The bill’s sponsors hope that the current political climate will make it law.   Essentially, the “Keeping American Jobs Act” is an anti-outsourcing bill, with specific restrictions against those companies that dominate the H1B visa lottery each year.

The bill will require an H1B sponsor to identify if the petition is being filed for the purpose of replacing an American worker, after training the foreign H1B employee in the position.  This practice has occurred with some major US companies, and is one of the catalysts for calls to change the H1B program.

A less noticeable impact that the bill will also address, is the strategy of bringing Indian IT workers to the US for temporary H1B positions, being trained on the job, and then taking those skills back to India.  This arguably, depletes the US of both a trained worker and potentially a job position, and is a specialty of outsourcing firms that also have either branches or home offices in India’s IT sector.

As one of the bill’s sponsors recently stated, “Companies have the opportunity to bring workers from overseas on H-1B visas in the event that qualified Americans aren’t available, but we can’t allow the law to be exploited to displace American workers and send their jobs abroad. The Keeping American Jobs Act protects American workers by preventing bad actors from abusing the system in order to offshore jobs.”

It is hard to see how any of these bills can impact the current H1B lottery season, and much of it may be pure politics.  What we may see is some type of last minute executive order from Trump altering how the lottery is conducted or visas awarded.

A Voice of Optimism from India Amid the H1B Debate

Despite this latest salvo in the H1B visa policy debate, one optimistic voice was heard from the Indian External Affairs Minister.  Naturally, the proposed H1B reforms will not only affect outsourcing firms, but many thousands of Indian IT workers hoping for a chance to live and work in the US.

Sushma Swaraj said, “Currently there are four bills in the US Congress about curbs on H1B visas. We are engaged (in a dialogue) with the US at very high level regarding this… We are making all efforts (through diplomatic channels) to ensure these bills are not passed,” 

While her comments can be viewed as a means to encourage prospective Indian IT workers, it is unclear how much influence the Indian government has with the Trump administration or Congressional leaders.  However, several recent legislative failures in the immigration arena in the US may lead the administration to take a ‘softer’ approach to H1B reform, and focus more on illegal immigrants residing in the country.  We will keep you updated the next few weeks on any shifts in policy or rules for the H1B visa program.

  • April 28th, 2017
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