Foreign Tech Pros May Benefit From Visa Changes - InformationWeek
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Foreign Tech Pros May Benefit From Visa Changes

New rules for L-1B visas that are under consideration by U.S. immigration authorities could open floodgates to foreign IT workers, according to Senators Grassley and Durbin.

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A pair of high-ranking senators are warning that possible changes to immigration rules could make it easier for foreign tech pros and other workers to obtain U.S. employment visas that are supposed to be reserved for individuals with so-called specialized knowledge.

"It has come to our attention that you are planning to issue new guidance on the L-1B visa 'specialized knowledge' standard in the near future. We write today to urge you not to propose changes that would undermine the L visa program," wrote Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in a bipartisan letter last week to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Alejandro Mayorkas, a copy of which was posted on the Senators' websites.

The L-1B is a sub-classification within the L visa program, which allows companies to transfer employees from a foreign office to a U.S. location. The L-1B requires that the employee possess "specialized knowledge," which current immigration rules define as "beyond the ordinary and not commonplace" in the industry in which the worker is employed.

[ If visas are important to you, then you will want to read H-1B Application Window Opens April 2. ]

Grassley and Durbin said USCIS is considering rule changes that would soften the definition of specialized knowledge, so that foreign workers who merely possessed knowledge comparable to other workers in the industry in question would qualify.

"A comparison to the knowledge held by workers in the company's industry generally would be unacceptable and would only undermine the specialized knowledge standard established by Congress," the Senators said.

Critics of the L-1B program argue that, even under the current rules, it's often misused by offshore outsourcing companies to transfer tech workers into their U.S. offices and then on to customer sites. Backers, including major software vendors like Microsoft, say it's necessary in order to bring key personnel into the country.

A Grassley staffer said USCIS' plan to revise L-1B policy guidance on specialized knowledge was recently brought to the Senator's attention. "We learned about it through other people, we have a document," said Beth Levine, Grassley's press secretary. "These special interests have been putting forward proposals to director Mayorkas and Senator Grassley wanted to be sure that Congress' intent was heard and not just these special interest groups."

Levine declined to say which "special interests" are supposedly behind the campaign to relax the L-1B rules.

A spokesman for USCIS confirmed that the agency is hoping to issue new policy guidance on L-1B specialized knowledge by the end of the month. "USCIS has actively engaged with the public on the L-1B classification, including most recently at a forum at the end of January hosted by the Chamber of Commerce," the spokesman said in an email.

"USCIS is currently reviewing its L-1B policy guidance, which is comprised of a series of memoranda dating back to 1994, to assess whether that guidance assists adjudicators in applying the law in new business settings that companies face today," the spokesman said.

The L-1B visa allows foreign workers to stay in the U.S. for up to five years. Unlike the H-1B visa, it is not subject to numerical caps.

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/12/2012 | 6:48:48 PM
re: Foreign Tech Pros May Benefit From Visa Changes
Also, we should not have to wait till October.Preference must be given to IT workers who already worked in US on H1B for 6+ yrs. They should be given Greencard.Companies should leverage the Business Partnerships that have been already built by years of Understanding, Hardwork, Common Principles, Appreciation etc.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/15/2012 | 5:36:01 AM
re: Foreign Tech Pros May Benefit From Visa Changes
The changes are for the worse, and will make it easier for body-shops to bring in cheaper workers and pawn them off to third parties. This change reverses some of the good that the Neufield memo instituted.

The bottom line is that body shops - primarily foreign body shops - are the worst abusers and this puts them back in a position to continue their fraud and abuse of the system.

This is crony capitalism at its finest. The body-shop industry demanded, and the USCIS complied.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/14/2012 | 8:42:05 PM
re: Foreign Tech Pros May Benefit From Visa Changes
Why do they need to transfer their "smart" personnel here? They must ALL be here already. Every time I call tech support, I always get a dumb one located back in the mother land. I end up teaching them a thing or two before I request them to bump me to level 2 in hopes of getting some useful advice...
Number 6
Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
3/14/2012 | 6:08:37 PM
re: Foreign Tech Pros May Benefit From Visa Changes
Lawyers and legislators, of course, can't be brought in on an L1B visa.
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