US senator introduces bill to check H1B visa fraud

 IANS   Washington     Last Updated: March 23, 2013  | 17:46 IST

A top Republican senator has introduced a bill to eliminate what he calls "fraud and abuse" from H1B visa programme coveted by Indian techies.

According to the data, of the top 12 companies which bagged more than 40,000 of the 134,740 H1B visas approved in 2012 all had a strong India presence.

They included Cognizant, in first place with 9,281 visas, followed by Tata (7,469), Infosys (5,600), Wipro (4,304), Accenture (4,037), HCL America (2,070), Mahindra and Satyam (1,963).

Introducing a bill to bring "much needed reform" to the H1B and L visa programmes for skilled workers and corporate transfers respectively, Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it would help ensure that Americans are given top consideration when applying for jobs.

"The legislation makes reforms to increase enforcement, modify wage requirements and ensure protection for visa holders and American workers," he said.

The bill, he said, would provide a good basis for H1B reform in the comprehensive immigration bill being put together by a bipartisan group of senators to put America's 11 million illegal immigrants, including some 250,000 Indians, on a path to citizenship.

"The legislation will benefit the American worker, while still ensuring that US companies get the specialised workers they need," Grassley said

The senator cited a 2008 US Citizenship and Immigration Service suggesting a more than a 20 per cent violation rate by those who use the H1B visa programme.

He also cited recent data from 2012-13 revealing that the top 10 companies that use the programme are offshoring firms that take up nearly 50 per cent of the visas available.

Key points of the legislation include: requiring all companies to make a good faith effort to hire Americans first; prohibiting employers from advertising only to H1B visa holders; and prohibiting companies from outsourcing visa holders to other companies.

It also requires that an H1B application filed by an employer that employs 50 or more US workers will not be accepted unless the employer attests that less than 50 per cent of the employer's workforce are H1B and L visa holders.

It also increases administrative fines per violation from $1000 to $2000 and from $5000 to $10,000 for wilful misrepresentation and restricts the ability of these companies to Indian technology companies bagged almost one third of the H1B work visas granted in 2012, according to new data from the USCIS.

Indian professionals took the largest one-third piece of the H1B visa pie in 2009, making up the second largest group of people making the US their temporary home.

Accounting for one-tenth of non-immigrant residents in the US, 364,757 Indians were only second to the Mexicans who made up 11.7 per cent at 403,793, but 123,002 H1B visa holders from India gave them the largest 36.3 per cent share among professionals.

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