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H-1B and L-1 visa Reform Act of 2017 (Not Law Yet):

Further to our article on “Predicted Upcoming H-1B changes (Not Law Yet)”  we have a new introduction to our yet upcoming changes – H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 introduced in the Congress. This Bill, if passed by both the House and the Senate and signed in to law by the US President, will introduce major changes to the existing H-1B and L-1 workers.

Educational and experience requirements: The bill reserves the priority for H-1B jobs for aliens who have earned an advanced degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) from a US institution of higher education. The completion of US degree will be a requirement or a foreign equivalent degree and cannot be replaced by the years of experience.

H-1B extensions: The period of authorized admission for an H-1B is reduced from six years to three years. The three-year extension will be available for aliens with extraordinary ability or with advanced degrees or the professors.

Strict scrutiny:  The Bill requires the employers to make a good faith effort to recruit American workers over foreign workers. The Department of Labor may issue subpoenas and seek appropriate injunctive relief and specific performance of contractual obligations to ensure H-1B employer compliance are in place. It will also conduct H-1B compliance audits and investigate applications for fraud. The Department of Labor will conduct annual audits of companies that hire more than 100 employees in the US and 15% of those employees are H-1B nonimmigrants. Further, the USCIS can share information submitted by H-1B employers if they find any indication of noncompliance with H-1B visa program requirements.

L-1 workers: The Bill prohibits, unless waiver is obtained from the Labor, an employer from hiring an alien for more than one year on L-1 nonimmigrant who will serve in capacity involving specialized knowledge and will be stationed primarily at the worksite of an employer other than the petitioning employer. It further prohibits the employer to replace US worker with an L-1 worker. It would also establish wages for the L-1 workers. The Department of Labor can also initiate an investigation of the L-1 employer. The authority to administer L1 visa blanket petitions is transferred from the Department of Justice to the Department of Homeland Security.

Since this bill has bipartisan support, it does stand a chance of passing both the Senate and the House and getting signed by the President. Though we could lament the loss of vision in growing the economy and hurting the growth of business- a key tenet of the Republican vision, it does seem that tenet has now moved left to align with the Democratic yearning for protectionism.  We don’t know in what form would this legislation go forward, but it doesn’t seem to impact this year’s CAP. Again the introductions, prior to the beginning of the H1B CAP for FY 2018 disturb bona-fide US businesses pursuing the visa on behalf of their employees, and creates panic. At this time, however- there are no changes. With this practice advisory, we give this information to you, hoping that you will understand this and reach out to us, in case you have any questions.