A new bill introduced to the Senate has the potential to completely overturn much of the H-1B and L-1 visa application processes. The bill, called the “H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act,” was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators to make it more difficult to acquire these visas and require employers to focus more heavily on recruiting U.S. employees.
The Visa Reform Act has only been introduced, but it could rewrite the application and acquisition process for H-1B and L-1 visas if passed. Here’s what H-1B sponsors and candidates should know about this bill, how it could affect the application process, and the likelihood of its passage into law.
What Would Change Under the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act?
According to its proponents, the Act is intended to encourage U.S. companies to hire more local workers rather than hiring foreign nationals to fill high-skill roles. To accomplish this, the bill has many new rules:
- It would codify current USCIS rules regarding the displacement of U.S. workers, explicitly prohibiting employers from replacing U.S. citizens or permanent residents with H-1B workers or reducing working conditions due to hiring any H-1B employee.
- It would bar employers from hiring H-1B employees for temporary employment in the U.S. to train them before returning them to their home countries.
- It would bar employers with 50 or more employees, of whom half are H-1B or L-1 visa holders, from hiring additional H-1B beneficiaries until the ratio falls below half.
- It would make a bachelor’s degree or equivalent educational experience mandatory instead of highly recommended.
Additionally, the new bill would institute significantly stricter rules for the application process, which is already known for being complex and time-consuming. Fees would increase accordingly to cover the additional costs incurred by USCIS in reviewing the extra documentation.
Finally, and most importantly, it would alter the current lottery system. Instead of giving all applicants across all fields equal consideration, the lottery would prioritize STEM applicants.
Impact on H-1B Sponsors
If the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act is passed, it could seriously impact all H-1B employers and sponsors nationwide. Many companies rely on this process to hire experts that are difficult or impossible to find in the U.S. By making it more difficult to sponsor candidates for these visas, it will likely make it harder for these organizations to find the skilled employees they need.
The process of sponsoring applicants, in particular, will become even more complex and expensive than it already is. Should the bill be passed, it is more likely that only the largest of companies will be able to afford the costs of sponsoring H-1B candidates. As such, the potential new visa law may unfairly restrict smaller organizations from accessing the global talent pool and make hiring in FY2025 and later years much harder.
Could the Bill Pass?
While the H–1B and L–1 Visa Reform Act is concerning for employers and prospective candidates alike, it should not be too alarming. Bills similar to the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act have been introduced to the Senate before. In fact, an almost identical bill was introduced last year, but it never left the committee hearing process.
Furthermore, the current administration is extremely immigration-friendly. Until the 2024 election occurs, it is unlikely that any anti-visa legislation like the Visa Reform Act will pass.
Still, keeping an eye on proposed changes to the H-1B process is always worthwhile. Preparing for future visa legislation is crucial to ensure your business can continue to operate and hire skilled foreign nationals unimpeded.
Expert Help for Whatever Changes New Visa Laws Bring
New legislation, regulations, and administrations can change everything about the visa application process. There’s no time like the present to begin preparing for the future of H-1B sponsorship. If you have questions or concerns about how these visas will change, consult the skilled immigration attorneys at Litwin & Smith. Our firm has decades of experience guiding companies and individuals through getting H-1B and L-1 visas. We can answer your questions about new laws and updates to the application process. Learn more about how our immigration law firm can assist you by scheduling a consultation now.