H1B visa doubling plans threatened by US Senator

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New Delhi, March 21: US visas for high-skilled foreign workers, including those from India, could double under a new Senate immigration plan, but an amendment proposed by Senator Chick Grassley may threaten some of the joy.

The proposals, under the Senate immigration plan, would also give permanent legal status to an unlimited number of students who earn graduate degrees from US universities in science, technology, engineering or math.

The number of H1Bs visas for highly skilled workers would approximately double from the current limit of 65,000 per year under the plan of eight senators working on a deal between the Congress and the White House to overhaul the immigration system.

The plan, if passed by both the chambers of the US, would meet one of the major demands of top American technology companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft who argue that they are not able to find enough qualified workers in the US.

However, the Grassley resolution may act as a dampener. The H1-B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2013, seeks to deny skilled-foreign-worker visas to foreign firms operating in the US but relying too heavily on expatriates rather than hiring locally. The bill aims to deny new H1B, or skilled-worker, visas to those firms with more than 50 employees and 50 percent or more of its employees already on this visa.

This proposal also requires companies to list vacancies on a US labour department sponsored website for a period of 30 days, before hiring foreign workers.

Even though the Grassley resolution doesn't single out Indian firms there are worries as Indian companies are among the largest employers in the US and of the 10 companies that account for the largest number of visas, five are from India.

Grassley is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and he wants to increase enforcement, modify wage requirements and ensure protection for visa holders and American workers. His similar resolution has been rejected on previous occasion.

According Grassley "somewhere along the line, the H-1B programme got side-tracked. The programme was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialised areas of employment."

"The legislation will benefit the American worker, while still ensuring that US companies get the specialised workers they need," he feels.

It provides that the wages paid to H-1B visa holders must be the highest of the locally-determined prevailing wage for the occupational classification in the area of employment.

OneIndia News

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