H1B Quota Crisis Leading to L1 Abuse

Are we bringing our number one alternative to H1B under political scanner?

Faced with the hit-and-miss story of H1B quota, companies are using L1 as a way around, and indirectly bringing it under the scanner of anti-immigration lobby.

The H1B quota crisis hit a new level in 2007, when the 65,000 visas available under this category was filled up within the first day of the application period, making it effectively the last day too. Now, as per USCIS rule, applications received on the last day are subjected to a computer generated random lottery process. This year’s unique situation left the fate of all of the 150,000 odd applications to the random lottery.

Reeling from this experience, companies needing H1B employees immediately sought alternatives and the L1 visa for Intra-company Transferees came up trumps. L-1 visas allow executives and workers with specialized skills employed by multinational companies to move from branch to branch within the company.

With a skill-set allowance almost similar to H1B and with the added bonus of no cap on L-1 visas, the number of applications under this category has soared in the last three years to near about 400,000 per year.

Of course, L-1 is not a dual intent visa i.e. it cannot lead to a green card. However, with the numbers increasing under L1 and the current political atmosphere in the US, the anti-immigration lobby is accusing the companies of abusing the L1 to avoid hiring American workers. Recently, US Senators demanded an explanation to the high number of L1 applications from some of the Top MNCs from India, which are the highest users of L1. The MNCs on the other hand stand by these numbers stating they are complying with the law as laid out by the US Government.

Whether the accusation is true or not is yet to be determined. In the meantime, there is a small possibility that this lobby might push for placing a cap limit on L1 as well. This proposal has been talked about in the news recently and met lukewarm support at the best, which is a positive sign. In the meantime, we hope foreign workers already settled in US take a few proactive steps and write to their senators, urging an increase in the H1B quota itself.