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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 1:23 pm | Fair 63º


Joe Guzzardi: Countless Employment-Based Visas Undermine American Workers

Dozens of federally issued employment-based visas granted to foreign workers offer multiple opportunities to deny Americans a job or to displace them from the ones they’re lucky enough to hold.

In Congress, the 85,000 annual H-1B visas are the most hotly debated, in part because over the years the total H-1B working population has soared to more than 1.4 million foreign nationals employed in high-level, coveted jobs.

But the general public is less aware of the L-1, another visa that harms U.S. workers. L-1 visas allow companies to transfer foreign-based employees and their families to the U.S. parent company, branch or affiliate from an overseas office. Once in the United States, their stays last for three to seven years.

L-1A workers are executives and managers, and L-1B workers are so-called specialized workers, and not necessarily managers, who “possess deep knowledge of a company’s systems, processes, technologies, or products and services.”

The description for L visas is federal government-speak. The feds don’t vet the incoming employees; no one outside the company knows what skills the new arrival may or may not have. Critics suspect that Ls often are assigned routine responsibilities that can’t be construed as managerial.

What is known, however, is that the jobs are rarely posted for U.S. candidates, and could involve tasks for which an American is fully qualified.

Since the L doesn’t require a Labor Department certification, as the H-1B does, and also unlike the H-1B has no cap, employers have increasingly turned to it as their favorite cheap labor vessel.

Getting an L visa is a dream come true for foreign nationals who have aspired to come to the United States. Laws that apply to L-1 visas allow the alien to have dual intent of temporary work permission, then transition to an EB-1C, the highest priority employment green card category, which can lead to lawful permanent residency, and eventual citizenship.

Bring the kids, enroll them in taxpayer-funded public schools, compete for U.S. college admission, and await the inevitable — citizenship.

Big plum: Spouses receive employment authorization documents. In each year since 2000, more than 100,000 foreign nationals received L-visas. In 2015 and 2016, the State Department listed about 165,000 L-category recipients. And in each of those years, the accompanying spouses and children outnumbered by several thousand the L-1 workers.

A 2006 Homeland Security Department inspector general report found that the L visa is riddled with abuse, and recommended greater protections for American workers.

From the OIG report: “The L-1 program is vulnerable (to fraud) in several respects.” The OIG went on to list some of the abuses, the two most egregious of which are the adjudicators’ inability to determine if the employers actually use the imported worker in a managerial capacity or if he has “specialized knowledge.”

Because of the vague nature of the claims submitted on L visa applications, adjudicators, according to the OIG, have “little choice but to approve almost all petitions.”

For a brief period, in fiscal year 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied L visas at a historic 35 percent rate. But when President Barack Obama’s administration became aware, it moved quickly to water down request for evidence standards which made getting an L visa easier.

Although fewer in number than the more well-known H-1B, the effect of L visas on U.S. tech workers is the same: Americans seeking employment are overlooked in favor of foreign nationals, or Americans are displaced from the jobs they hold.

— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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