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US bill aims to curb visa regime, Indian IT cries foul

world Updated: Apr 25, 2009 03:10 IST
V Krishna
V Krishna
Hindustan Times
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With job losses unabated as the recession drags on, two US Senators have introduced legislation to reform the H-1B and L-1 work visa programmes to protect American workers — by preventing abuse and fraud and stopping outsourcing.

The bill poses a potential protectionist threat to Indian companies by specifying minimum levels of US workers in IT units.

The Indian industry says that the bill if converted to law will have serious implications on Indian companies. “If the bill goers through then Indian companies will not be bale to compete in the US,” said Som Mittal, president of industry association NASSCOM, said in Delhi.

Indian professionals receive the largest share of H-1B and L-1 visas.

Among other things, the bill would require any employer who wants to hire a foreign worker on an H-1B visa to first make a good-faith attempt to recruit a qualified American worker. Employers would be prohibited from using H-1B visa holders to displace qualified US workers. If more than 50 per cent of a firm's employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders, it would be prohibited from hiring additional H-1B and L-1 workers.

"Our bill will put a stop to the outsourcing of American jobs and discrimination against American workers,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, who is one of the sponsors.

The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, co-sponsored by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, would also prohibit “H-1B only” ads, expand the Labour Department's investigation powers and require it to conduct annual audits of H1-B worker-rich companies.

According to an analysis, Indian companies had been allocated only 12,000 of 85,000 H1-B visas in 2008.