BENGALURU: The US is set to pass a bill on immigration with major implications for the Indian IT sector and its employees. The bill seeks to prohibit companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people in the US and more than 50% of those employees are H-1B and L-1 visa holders.
The Bipartisan legislation, if passed, all U.S. companies looking to hire workers with H-1Bs would be required to first search for a U.S. citizen to fill the position. Companies of more than 50 people in which over half of the workforce in made up of H-1B and L-1 visa holders would be banned from hiring any new workers with H-1Bs. (L-1 visas allow for the relocation of specialized workers to U.S.-based departments of international companies). This move will place severe restrictions on larger Indian IT companies that are the largest users of H-1B visas. Though companies do not disclose the data, it is believed that the large Indian IT companies have more than 50% of their employees on H-1Bs and L-1s.
The bill was introduced by Republican Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, who is also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Democratic Illinois senator Dick Durbin.
The Wall Street Journal reports that India’s outsourcing firms, and subsequently the country’s economy, have already been facing challenges because of cloud computing. This bill would add to their troubles.
The Bill also gives the labour department enhanced authority to review, investigate, and audit employer compliance with programme requirements, as well as to penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct. It requires the production of extensive statistical data about the H-1B and L-1 programmes, including wage data, worker education levels, place of employment and gender. “If this Bill is enacted, US companies would be prohibited from hiring foreign workers under the H-1B and L-1 visa categories if at least 50% of their employees have already been employed on such visas. The Bill also gives wide powers to the law enforcement authorities to investigate and penalize for non-compliances,” Shroff said.