Plea from Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley comes days before initial registration for H-1B visa lottery opens from March 9 to 25.
Two influential senators have urged the Biden administration to “retain and expeditiously implement” the wage-based H-1B selection rule introduced by former President Donald Trump days before his exit instead of the old lottery system.
Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Chuck Grassley, chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee respectively, made the demand in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Wednesday.
On Feb. 4, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had announced that it will continue the old system of H-1B visa selection for high-skilled foreign workers by lottery until the yearend instead of switching to wage-based selection from March 9.
RELATED: H-1B visa lottery system to continue until year end (February 5, 2021)
“We were disappointed to learn of this delay, as the H-1B visa program is greatly in need of reform,” Durbin and Grassley wrote just a few days before the opening of the registration window for the H-1B cap filing season from March 9 to 25.
Indian tech professionals are the biggest beneficiaries of the current lottery system getting about two thirds of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually.
“The practical effect of this delay is that outsourcing companies will continue to game the lottery system and secure thousands of new H-1B visas for FY 2022 since the H-1B filing season begins in a few weeks,” Durbin and Grassley wrote.
“This will facilitate these companies’ efforts to continue outsourcing American jobs,” they wrote.
“We believe the H-1B visa program must be reformed to stop abuse. Implementing a reasonable allocation of visas as the H-1B selection rule would do is a meaningful step toward reform to protect American workers. We urge you to expeditiously implement the rule.”
RELATED: USCIS replaces H-1B lottery with wage-based selection (January 8, 2021)
The Trump rule, Durbin and Grassley wrote “will protect American workers by ensuring that visas are first issued to employers offering the highest wages in the area of employment before being allocated to other petitioners,”
“This rule would revamp the annual distribution of H-1B visas, which is currently done by random lottery, to instead prioritize the highest-paid workers,” they wrote.
“This would make it much more difficult for companies that specialize in outsourcing American jobs to game the allocation of H-1B visas, which currently results in these companies obtaining tens of thousands of additional visas every year.
Durbin and Grassley have been long-time advocates for H-1B reform and first introduced legislation to reform this visa program in 2007, they said in a media release.
RELATED: Trump administration hikes wages for H-1B, foreign worker programs (January 13, 2021)
Titled, “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions,” the new rule was published on Jan. 8, just two weeks before Trump’s exit.
Durbin and Grassley cited a May 4, 2020 analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, saying “a majority of H-1B employers use the visa program to pay migrant workers below-market wages, and half of the top 30 H-1B employers use an outsourcing business model.”
“This is simply unacceptable and does not reflect how Congress intended the H-1B program to work.”
“While Congress should pass legislation to overhaul the H-1B visa program, DHS and the Department of Labor should use their robust regulatory authority to reform the H-1B program to protect American workers from displacement and migrant workers from exploitation,” Durbin and Grassley wrote.
READ: Trump goes ahead with H-1B, other immigration curbs before exit (December 14, 2020)
“Establishing an equitable distribution of new visas is a key starting point to ensuring that the H-1B visa program is not used to lower wages and displace American workers.”
“The annual H-1B visa lottery has been abused for years by outsourcing companies,” Durbin and Grassley suggested.
“Employers offering high wages to international graduates of American universities often lose out in the H-1B lottery, while thousands of new H-1B visas are issued each year to outsourcing companies offering below-market wages and seeking to offshore American jobs.”
“The H-1B selection rule is a reasonable regulatory reform that will improve the H-1B visa program for American and immigrant workers, and American employers,” Durbin and Grassley wrote.
The senators said they “disagree with the decision to institute a lengthy delay to the effective date of the H-1B selection rule, and we urge DHS to retain and implement the rule as soon as possible.
Ideally, this should be done “before the upcoming April 2021 lottery – so that outsourcing companies cannot continue to game the system at the expense of American workers, as they have done for far too long.”
“If DHS finds that the H-1B selection rule needs to be further refined to avoid unintended consequences, we ask that you quickly identify and make these changes to improve the rule,” Durbin and Grassley wrote.
Sen. Dick Durbin proposes new immigration bill in place of S.386 (October 17, 2019)
Chuck Grassley again denounces H-1B visa program (January 18, 2018)