Washington: In what could be worrying for Indian software professionals, two US Senators have introduced amendments to the economic stimulus bill, which if passed would prevent US companies receiving the federal bailout money, from hiring H-1B visa holders.
The amendment if approved by the Senate would have an immediate impact on Indian software professionals, as it is they who are the major beneficiary of the H-1B visa program.
An amendment in this regard has been co-sponsored by the Republican Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley and the Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.
Introducing the amendment on the floor of the Senate, Senator Sanders said: “It is essentially saying that there would be a suspension of H-1B program of any institution, which would be receiving TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) funds for just one year.”
Seeking bi-partisan support to his amendment, Sanders said: “I firmly believe that companies going through layoffs that employ H-1B visas (holding workers) have a moral obligation to protect American workers by putting them first during these difficult times.”
Sanders also quoted a recent media report that said that the American banking industry had requested for more than 21,000 visas for foreign guest workers over the last six years.
”Hiring American workers for limited available jobs should be a top priority for businesses taking taxpayer money through the TARP program,“ Senator Grassley said, adding if banks are going to be getting American taxpayer money than they should be hiring American workers.
“With the unemployment rate at 7.2%, there is no need for companies to hire foreign workers through the H1-B programme when there are plenty of qualified Americans looking for jobs,” Grassley said.
He said he supports the H-1B program, but it should be used in the way it was intended as a temporary measure to supplement a company’s need for hi-tech or specialised workers when none are available in the US.
Observing that H-1B and other work visa programs were never intended to replace qualified American workers, Grassley argued now that many qualified bank employees are unemployed, banks who want to hire workers shouldn’t have a hard time finding what they need from an American workforce.
Grassley along with Senator Dick Durban had introduced a comprehensive H-1B and L visa reform bill in the previous 110th Congress. This was aimed at giving priority to American workers and crack down on employers who deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs.
The Senator has also asked questions of both US and foreign-based companies about their use of the H-1B visa programme.