A bipartisan pair of US senators has introduced a legislation cutting the annual cap on H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers by 15,000 from the current 85,000 (including 20,000 foreign students already in the US).
For the remaining 70,000, the bill introduced on Tuesday proposes that higher wage earners be given priority over those making less, to prevent disadvantaging and displacing of local workers.
Indians as a group are among the top recipients of H-1B visas, which are critical also to the business model of US branches of Indian tech giants such as the TCS, Wipro and Infosys.
Critics of H-1B visas have long argued that employers are using them to bring cheaper workers from abroad to replace local workers in the name of cutting costs.
But there is also a growing body of lawmakers who want to raise the cap, and substantially.
A legislation passed by the senate in 2013 proposed to almost double the annual intake first to 115,000 and take it up to 180,000 in phases.
“By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified US workers,” Ben Nelson, a Democratic senator from Florida and one of the movers of the new bill, said in a statement.
Nelson moved the bill with Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama who has been a long-time critic of H-1B visas.
Nelson and a few other senators moved another legislation last month proposing reforms of the H-1B process -- prevent employers from replacing American workers by those on H-1B; make it mandatory for employers to prove they tried to hire locally before going out; and prevent employers who employ more than 50 workers, half of whom are already foreigners, from hiring any additional H-1B visa holders.