Senator Grassley’s Quest to Combat H-1B Visa Fraud and Impact on the Program

Senator Grassley’s Quest to Combat H-1B Visa Fraud and Impact on the Program

Article Published on:  July 27, 2017

Article Written by FLG Attorney: Melissa Winkler / Photo Courtesy of AP

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been a long critic of the H-1B visa program, which allows companies to petition for foreign nationals with the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree to work in a “specialty occupation,”[1] meaning a position that requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher with specific and complex duties. In January 2017, Senator Grassley and Dick Durbin (D-IL ) released legislation pertaining to the H-1B and L-1 visa to ensure companies prioritize American workers and ensure the “best and brightest” have a preference for an H-1B visa. [2] Consequently, Grassley and Durbin’s bill would change the selection process from a random process to a merit-based system. Currently, visas are administered under a lottery process where 65,000 petitions and additional 20,000 petitions for those with a U.S. Master’s degree are selected at random out of the individuals that apply for the H-1B visa.[3] For the fiscal year 2018, USCIS received 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period.[4]

Grassley’s bill also would provide the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) enhanced authority to review, investigate, and audit employer compliance with program requirements, as well as to penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct.  It requires the production of extensive statistical data about the H-1B and L-1 programs, including wage data, worker education levels, place of employment and gender.

In June 2017, Senator Grassley requested additional information from the DOL regarding the extent to which U.S. companies employ H-1B workers through contracting companies and the impact this may have on wages and American workers.[5] Senator Grassley has praised actions taken by President Trump, the Labor Secretary Acosta, and Department of Homeland Security in combating visa fraud and protecting American workers. One such recent activity includes a memorandum issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) discussing lower level occupations and position levels.