Bill seeks changes to H-1B rules

Bill seeks changes to H-1B rules

By Kathleen Lynn, Northjersey.com
July 18, 2016


American tech workers are being unfairly shoved aside by a U.S. program that allows companies to bring in temporary workers from overseas, according to Rep. William Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, who has introduced a bill to change the rules.

“I’m interested in the protection of American workers, and protecting foreign workers when they do work here,” Pascrell said Monday in a conference call. “Some businesses are abusing the visa program, undercutting our workforce in America and exploiting foreign workers,” Pascrell said.

Pascrell’s bi-partisan bill involves so-called H-1B visas, which allow American companies to bring in foreign workers “in professional and specialty occupations” for up to three years, with a possible three-year extension, when there aren’t enough American workers with the necessary skills. The visa program has been used largely by tech companies. A total of 85,000 H-1B visas are allotted each year.

Several lawsuits have accused tech companies of firing American employees to replace them with less expensive temporary H-1B workers from overseas.

Cognizant Technology Systems of Teaneck, for example, was sued in January by former Walt Disney World tech employees, who said more than 200 Disney workers were fired and replaced by Cognizant contract workers brought in from overseas. The lawsuit claims that the Disney workers were forced to train their replacements. A similar suit is pending against the company in California.

Cognizant is one of the nation’s largest users of the H-1B visa and the similar L-1 visa. Asked to comment on Pascrell’s bill, Cognizant released a statement saying, “In addition to a robust and sophisticated recruiting program designed specifically to hire U.S. workers, Cognizant supports high-skilled immigration, as we believe H-1B and L-1 visas are important to fill talent gaps in the market to meet the growing U.S. demand for technology/STEM workers and are fundamental for U.S. companies to remain competitive in the coming years.”

Under the bill sponsored by Pascrell and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, companies would be prohibited from replacing American workers with visa holders, and would be required to make more of an effort to hire American workers before bringing in workers from overseas. For example, companies would be required to post job openings on the U.S. Department of Labor website before seeking to hire workers from overseas, and would have to wait at least 100 days after laying off U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers.

Pascrell’s bill also would prohibit companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than half of their employees hold H-1B and L-1 visas. And it would require that visa holders be told of their rights before they enter the U.S., so that they are better protected against being mistreated or underpaid.

The bill is supported by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the AFL-CIO.

Posted July 18 2016 at 11:49 AM Permanent Link

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