Could Staffing Firms be Banned From Getting H-1B Visas?

Staffing firms are being brought into the ongoing debate about immigration reform.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, D-Iowa, is introducing legislation that would prohibit staffing firms from bringing in H-1B visa holders, according to Staffing Industry Analysts.  Specifically, it forbids companies from outsourcing H-1B holders to other companies, and companies would be required to sign a waiver attesting that they have not displaced a U.S. worker and that it is not a labor for hire arrangement.

Grassley wants to eliminate fraud in the H-1B program. On his website, he cites a 2008 Benefit Fraud and Compliance Assessment from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that showed a more than 20% violation rate by those participating in the H-IB visa program.  He also states on his site that the top 10 companies using the program are offshoring firms that hold 50% of the available visas

This potential legislation has many in the staffing industry concerned, especially those serving the IT and engineering sectors.  H-1B visas allow employers to hire foreign workers with specialized knowledge or technical expertise, such as scientists, engineers, or computer professions. In some locations, those sectors are experiencing skills shortages, and H-1B visas help them fill the gap.

News of this bill is coming as many staffing firms are scrambling to submit H-1B visa petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2014 cap. The USCIS will start accepting petitions on April 1, and the 65,000 cap for those with bachelor's degrees is expected to be met within days.  

The proposed legislation certainly won't be enacted in time to affect this year's petition period. In fact, it could be quite awhile before such legislation is passed.  On Senator Grassley's website, he states that the legislation would "provide a good basis for H-1B reform in the comprehensive immigration bill being put together by a bipartisan group of senators." As updates are available, we will be sure to include them on this blog.

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

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