Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have sent a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, outlining their concerns of abuse within the H-1B visa program. The H-1B visa program allots 65,000 3-year visas per year for highly-skilled workers with more than half used by high-tech companies. The 65,000 visa cap for the 2011 fiscal year was reached last week, which could prompt calls for increasing the annual cap.
In their letter, Senators Grassley and Durbin referred to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office that identified several areas of abuse within the visa program, including failure by tech companies to look for available American workers to fill open jobs and failure to pay H-1B visa workers the appropriate wage.
"The H-1B visa program is riddled with loopholes and is in need of serious reform. It’s time to put integrity back into the program, and ensure that the program works for American workers and businesses," Grassley said. "Senator Durbin and I have been highlighting fraud and abuse within the H-1B program for years, and this report reiterates those concerns. It’s time we get the program back to its original intent where employers use H-1B visas only to shore-up employment in areas where there is a lack of qualified American workers.”
"Congress created the H-1B visa program so an employer could hire a foreign guest-worker when a qualified American worker could not be found. We’ve long argued that the H-1B visa program is plagued with fraud and abuse and is a vehicle for outsourcing American jobs. This report backs us up. Especially at a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, the H-1B visa program should complement the U.S. workforce, not replace it."
The GAO report also pointed out that the government doesn't have an accurate count of how many H-1B visa holders are currently in the country.
"We are deeply troubled that DHS has no idea how many H-1B visa holders are working in the United States at a time when millions of Americans are unemployed," Sens. Grassley and Durbin wrote.
The two Senators also criticized a Bush-era rule that extends the time that foreign students can stay and work in the United States after they graduate. Pres. Bush extended the time from 12 months to 29 months, but both Senators agree that the students are not paid a prevailing wage, which creates unfair competition with U.S. graduates. The Obama Administration has defended, but it's been labeled as a backdoor H-1B visa.
For more information, and to read the full letter, visit Sen. Grassley's website.