ITAA Urges L-1 Visa Reform

White paper says that visa program has hurt American IT workers.

At a Capitol Hill hearing this week, the Information Technology Association of America released a paper that urges reform of the controversial L-1 visa program.

The ITAA seeks to prevent misuse of L-1 visas, which some IT workers say have cost them their jobs.

"The L-1 program is critically important to U.S. multinational information technology firms as they compete globally," ITAA President Harris Miller said in a statement released along with the report titled "Proposed Guidance on L-1B Specialized Knowledge."

"However, as with any complex immigration program, we see some possible areas of improvement in its administration by the Departments of State and Homeland Security to insure that legitimate users have access and to prevent possible abuses," the statement continued.

The L-1 visa program was created to allow multinational companies to temporarily transfer employees with specialized skills from their foreign subsidiaries, affiliates or parent companies to work on special projects in the United States. But critics of the program claim that a loophole allows IT consultancies with operations overseas to import foreign workers and then contract them out to U.S. companies, which are not required by law to pay L-1 visa holders prevailing U.S. wages. Some laid-off IT workers claim they have even had to train their foreign replacements.

Aiming to prevent such misuse, the ITAA paper seeks to clarify what qualifies as "specialized knowledge" in the IT industry. Knowledge of ubiquitous database management systems, operating systems or software languages such as COBOL, C++, and Java are not examples of specialized knowledge, according to the ITAA. But "advanced knowledge of an employers special process or methodology that is not generally held throughout the industry could be considered specialized knowledge and would be an acceptable case for applying for an L-1 visa," the ITAA said in a statement.

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