A top Republican lawmaker has demanded abolition of the lottery system in allocating H-1B visas, the most sought-after by Indian IT professionals, to restore the original purpose of the programme to bring the “best and brightest” to the country. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner said the programme is in a “desperate” need of reform and it must be addressed with a serious, clear-eyed approach. “In the current system, 85,000 H-1B visas are allotted by lottery annually. If there is competition to come to the US, we should ensure we get the best and brightest, not just roll the dice and accept the results,” Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House Judiciary Sub-committee on Immigration and Border Security, wrote in an op-ed in the Forbes magazine.
Applicants with specialised skills should be selected for specific positions, the way the programme intends, Sensenbrenner said, arguing that by shuffling foreign applicants through a lottery system, they empower businesses to replace qualified American workers with cheaper labour. “Higher standards and stricter qualifications must be enforced. No job that could be filled by a qualified American worker should be given to a visa holder for less money,” Sensenbrenner said. The Republican from Wisconsin alleged that over the years, the H-1B programme has transformed into a way for companies to undercut American workers and replace them with foreign labour for significantly less money. “Eighty per cent of H-1B workers receive less than the median wage – this is not only a violation of the spirit of the programme, but it also disadvantages American-born job seekers,” he rued.
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Sensenbrenner said in his home state, a number of the largest local employers are utilising the programme in order to maintain their bottom lines. “Serious reforms are necessary to tamper abuse of the programme, level the playing field, and bring the process back to its original purpose,” he said. In his Forbes op-ed, he also said that “it’s imperative we reassess the laws and regulations governing the H-1B visa programme to ensure that our country no longer tolerates questionable hiring and firing practices of American and foreign workers”.
Last month, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop “visa abuses”. Trump said his administration is going to enforce ‘Hire American’ rules that are designed to protect jobs and wages of workers in the US. The executive order also calls upon the Departments of Labour, Justice, Homeland Security, and State to take action against fraud and abuse of our visa programmes.
While the order applies broadly to all US visa programmes, it specifically addresses the problems within the H-1B visa programme and demands reforms that ensure these visas are only awarded to companies that actually require highly skilled foreign workers.