Employees in San Diego who have a work visa, as well as employers who hire immigrant workers, might be interested in a recent news story about a battle over the L-1 visa. This particular type of visa allows for employees working in a company’s foreign offices to transfer to offices in the United States. Critics of the L-1 visa claim that by accepting the recommendations suggested by over 60 organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and IT outsourcing firms, it may undermine protections that U.S. workers have.
The focus on the L-1 visa has caused a national debate over the use of work visas and outsourcing of American jobs. Currently the federal government prevents companies from substituting the L-1 visa as an H-1B visa by limiting the L-1 visa to those with “specialized knowledge,” defined as possessing knowledge or skills that are not common within an industry. The Chamber of Commerce is asking the White House to redefine “specialized knowledge” in what appears to be an effort to loosen the visa rules, and the AFL-CIO and IEEE-USA have objected that the change amounts to condoning the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.
Currently, the definition allows immigration officials leeway with the visa rules, but some are complaining that immigration officials are interpreting the definition in such a way that it violates the law. The AFL-CIO and IEEE-USA believe the proposed changes should not be approved. They say the current rules are specific enough to prevent outsourcing companies from sending foreign workers to the United States for the purpose of gaining skills, knowledge and contacts that could eventually increase the number of American jobs being moved overseas.
The L-1 visa battle is still brewing, and it remains to be seen if the administration will redefine the terms of these visa applications. Both sides have strong views on this issue, and the issue promises to garner the attention of the news media in this presidential election year. San Diego workers may want to stay abreast of this issue because it could affect them in the future.
Source: InfoWorld, “Work visa debate shifts from H-1B to L-1 visas,” Patrick Thibodeau, April 4, 2012