External Affairs

H-1B Visa System Needs to Be Changed to Fit Needs of the US Economy, Says Senator

Credit: PTI

Representative image. Credit: PTI

Washington: A top US senator has said that there is a need to “scale up and ramp down” the number of H-1B work visas, highly popular among Indian techies and IT companies. According to him, this is based on the needs of the American economy.

North Carolina senator Thom Tillis’s remarks came yesterday at a Senate hearing on financial companies.

“They [H-1B visa numbers] need to be scaled up and ramped down based on the needs of the US economy in the supply of the resources to fill some of the roles,” Tillis said.

Tillis wanted to know from experts appearing before the Senate Finance Committee if there were enough talented people available in US to fill up the needs of its industries. “Do you believe that there is a sufficient number of American citizens to fulfil the [requirements from] H-1B visa [holders]?” he asked.

“I do get the exploitation [part]. That’s why we want to find the businesses that actually discredit visa programmes.”

He further asked whether the country had sufficient labour to ensure a 3.5-4% GDP growth rate.

William Spriggs, professor of economics at Harvard University and chief economist at AFL-CIO, said the US needs to make proper investments in Americans.

“If we can return to making the proper investments in American children and believe in them, we can educate enough people to do the job. During the downturn, we continued to bring in H-1B visa workers even though we were laying off [American] workers in that industry and even though we were continuing to see [American] graduate students desperate for jobs,” Spriggs said.

He noted that anyone born between 1985 and 1994 was going to pay a permanent lower wage penalty because of the size and duration of the downturn, including those who got advanced degrees in computer science.

“I would just note, they’re smart enough to know this, and my son is going graduate in electrical engineering because we don’t do H-1B [visas for electrical engineers]. Students of engineering know this. They know that if you do certain fields, there are no H-1B visas. They know if you do other fields you face that competition,” Spriggs said.

“We believe that workers always have to have a path to citizenship. Temporary visa programmes, the H2B programme and the H-1B visa programme all exploit workers, and work to the detriment of American workers and to those workers,” Spriggs said.

In less than a week of Donald Trump being sworn in as the 45th US president, Republican senator Chuck Grassley and assistant senate minority leader Dick Durbin introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act to prioritise American workers and restore fairness in visa programmes for skilled workers.