Senate, House Bills and Leaked Draft Executive Order Seek to Limit Use of H-1B and L-1 Visa Programs

February 03, 2017

Bills introduced in the House and Senate and a recently leaked draft executive order echo President Trump's campaign promise to attempt to "protect American jobs" by curbing the number of work visas issued, especially H-1B and L-1.  The draft executive order purports to secure "the availability of jobs and benefits" for U.S. citizens and "reduce the flow of illegal entries and visa overstays" through lowering the availability of work visas.  It orders that the Secretary of Homeland Security "consider ways to make the process for allocating H-1B visas more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and brightest."  The document further calls for conducting site visits where L-1 workers are placed, "incentivizing and expanding" the E-Verify program, establishing a commission to explore how the national interest can be best served by federal immigration policies, and releasing reports on "potential injury to U.S. workers" by work visa programs, singling out H-1B, L-1, and B-1 in the text.  David Fortney of FortneyScott said in an Association conference call (see previous story) that while the draft order is broad, "it's safe to say the overarching intent is to narrow the use of these visas."  In Congress, similar efforts are underway as Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have reintroduced the "H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act" (S. 180) to eliminate the visa lottery system, require a "good faith effort" to recruit U.S. workers before hiring an H-1B worker, and explicitly prohibit replacing U.S. workers with H-1B workers.  In the House, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have introduced measures (H.R. 170 and H.R. 670, respectively) that would dramatically increase the H-1B salary threshold and apply other measures intended to limit use of the work visa.