H1-B Visa Programme reform bill introduced in US Congress
The proposed changes are expected to impact the revenues of the Indian IT companies that are heavily dependent on the American market.
The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act was introduced in the US Congress in January 2017. The bill roposes key changes in the H1-B Programme in order to stop misuse of the H1-B and L1 visas by the American companies.
The bill also seeks to encourage companies to hire more American workers in order to tackle growing unemployment in the country.
Highlights of the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act
• The bill was introduced by Republican Darrell Issa and Scott Peters. They represent California in the House of Representatives of the US Congress.
• It prohibits companies from hiring H1-B employees if they employ more than 50 people.
• It also disallows companies from hiring H1-B employees if more than 50% of their employees are H1-B and L-1 visa holders.
• The proposed legislation prohibits replacement of American workers by H1-B or L-1 visa holders.
What are H1-B and L-1 visas?
• The H1-B and L-1 visas are non-immigrant visas offered by the US Government. These visas allow companies to employ skilled workers from other countries to meet shortages in the labour market.
• These two visas differ in terms of the length of period that an individual is allowed to stay in the country.
• On an L1 visa, the maximum length an individual is allowed to stay is 7 years.
• An H1B visa holder may remain in the county for a total of six years but there exists the opportunity to file for a 3-year extension.
• The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act comes after a number of companies like Disney and SoCal Edison have come under fire for abusing the H1B Visa programme to replace American workers with foreign workers.
• The Indian Information Technology industry is expected to hit hard with the proposed legislation as it is the major beneficiary of this visa programme.
• As per an estimate, around 80,630 H1-B visas were issued to Indian nationals by the American companies in 2012 alone.