United States-based think tank South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council on Wednesday said the country’s H-1B visa programme exposes immigrant workers to exploitation and poor working conditions.
The report titled “Reforming the US’ high-skilled guest worker programme” comes days after US President Donald Trump announced plans to overhaul the policy to encourage talented and highly-skilled people to pursue career options in the country. The report was compiled by Howard University associate professor Ron Hira and Bharath Gopalswamy, director of the think tank.
“While the H-1B was originally intended to attract foreign workers to satisfy unmet demand for skilled labor, the current system undercuts opportunities for US workers and enables the exploitation of H-1B workers, many of whom who are underpaid, vulnerable to abuse, and frequently placed in poor working conditions,” the think tank said.
The H-1B visa allows US companies to employ skilled workers from abroad – more than three lakh Indians are believed to be on this work permit. In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, the administration had made it difficult for H-1B visa holders over the extension and issuing of new ones.
The report asked that measures be incorporated to ensure fair working conditions and an increase in wages. “If the United States is going to invite in the ‘best and brightest’ workers, they ought to be paid in the top quartile,” the report said.
The think tank also suggested that employers recruit qualified US workers before resorting to the H-1B programme. “The rationale of the H-1B programme is to fill labour gaps and not simply to swell the pool of candidates for employers,” the report said.
The report urged for an “effective and efficient enforcement mechanism” instead of one that is heavily reliant on a complaint-based system.
The US in November had announced that it planned to introduce a new merit-based rule under which companies employing foreign workers on H-1B visas will have to register their petitions in advance. The aim of the rules would be to provide visas to the most skilled and highest-paid foreign workers.