L-Visa Programs Brimming with Abuses

The L-1 visa program allows companies to transfer (from within the company) foreign employees to the U.S. who are either management/executives or have specialized knowledge of the company. The L-1 visa program was first initialized in 1970 by Congress and allows ample opportunities for abuse.

Combine this with the growing popularity of outsourcing and you arrive at the inevitable result: the number of L-1 visa transfers has shifted from 75,000 in 1992 to an average of just under 360,000 per year in 2007-2009, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The L-1 temporary visa, which allows foreign employees to work in the U.S. for five or seven years, is available to those who were employed outside the United States at an American subsidiary for at least one year out of the three years prior to an application. Despite the fact that the L-1 visa is technically a temporary visa, L-1 visa holders do not need to maintain a legal intent to return to their former country of residence. Abandoning any intention of returning, a “nonimmigrant” can easily petition for permanent resident status, making something of a mockery of the idea of the “temporary worker.”

American workers are already being hit hard during this economic tailspin, but the worst aspect of the L-1 visa program is the complete lack of prevailing wage statutes. Without these statutes, American-based companies can fire domestic employees and bring in foreign workers at drastically reduced wages, providing all the incentive needed for a mass importation of foreign workers. Some of our nation’s best high tech jobs are increasingly being given to foreign workers coming in through the L-1 program.

The L-1 visa program is such a large threat to American workers due to the fact that what these companies are doing is perfectly legal. The application of the L-1 program is designed to be limited to those foreign employees that offer specialized knowledge of the company (or to management), but abuse of this program is prominent. Congress’ intent may have been to allow for a small number of legitimate intra-company transfers, but the law is so broadly written that it allows for the exploitation of foreign workers at the expense of Americans.

As the data suggests, abuse of the L-1 visa is growing rapidly to the detriment of American workers. This situation demands that legislative action put an end to this abuse.

We must take some essential steps toward a more prosperous future. Whether the United States is a nation that exists for the direct benefit of U.S. citizens and workers, or simply a tool that exists to encourage short-term financial interests at the expense of long-term economic security, is up to us. We must decide if our economic system should be subservient to the people, or whether the people are subservient to a rising economic model, a model which mandates that society bear the costs and risks of corporate profiteering.

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