We are in the midst of a triple play involving the admission of lots more L-1 foreign workers to replace resident ones.
L-1s are alien employees of big multinational firms ("intracompany transferees") who can be admitted to work in the United States for years at a time. Unlike the somewhat similar H-1B program, there are no numerical limits and no labor standards. Big firms, based both overseas and in the States, love the program.
The most recent admissions data (for FY 2013) show more than 500,000 entries of such workers and more than 200,000 admissions of L-1 dependents, who also may work in the United States. The workers are supposed to have been employed overseas before their transfer here.
The three elements that are combining to expand the already large program are these:
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has reported that the administration is contemplating policy changes that could, to quote an earlier statement by the president, "benefit hundreds of thousands of nonimmigrant workers".
- Unless Congress acts by September 30, the extra fee of $2,250 per L-1 worker will disappear, making these workers that much more attractive to employers.
- And, as we noted in another posting, an L-1 employer faced with violations can demand that a government inspector come back to the work site on another day.
The L-1 "reform" (without any change in law) that Sen. Grassley warned of relates to the definition of the "specialized knowledge" that these workers must have. The already loose interpretation of this phrase may become even looser, allowing virtually all requested L-1 foreign workers' applications to be approved.
What often happens is that big, multinational firms with offices in, say, India and the United States will bring in computer programmers and pay them at Indian rates rather than at U.S. rates, thus squeezing resident workers out of their jobs.
Like many other recent changes in immigration policy, loosening the definition of "specialized knowledge" would be done through White House edict alone, without any congressional authorization.