Two senior US lawmakers have expressed concern over potential changes being made to the L1 visa programme, arguing that this will encourage companies to import foreign workers and evade restrictions of the H-1B visa programme.
In a letter to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas, Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin said that they "are concerned about attempts by unscrupulous petitioners to obtain L-1B status for workers who do not truly possess specialized knowledge relating to the petitioning company."
The L-1B visa programme allows companies to transfer employees with "specialized knowledge" from the foreign facilities to their US offices for up to seven years.
Specialised knowledge as defined by Congress as 'special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures for the company.'
The Senators also wrote that both the Department of State and US Citizenship and Immigration Services' Administrative Appeals Office have considered the term "specialised knowledge" when adjudicating these visas, and encouraged USCIS to adopt the clear standards and reasoning provided by the State Department and the Administrative Appeals Office.
Grassley and Durbin's letter comes in response to the January 11, 2011, letter of Department of State that gives new guidance to consular officers on how to adjudicate visas under the specialized knowledge category.
According to the guidelines issued by the Department of State to consular officers around the world, posts should use certain criteria to assist in making an L-1B adjudication.
The criteria include the proprietary nature of the knowledge possessed by the visa applicant, whether the visa applicant is 'key' or normal personnel and whether the applicant possesses more skills or knowledge than an 'ordinary' employee.
"We are concerned about attempts by unscrupulous petitioners to obtain L-1B status for workers who do not truly possess specialized knowledge relating to the petitioning company," the Senators said.
"We are concerned that any weakening of the standard would create additional incentives for some employers to use the L-1B visa programme in order to circumvent even the minimal wage and other labor protections for American workers in the H-1B visa programme," the Senators said.