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visa 2The “abuse” of H-1B visa is harming American workers, a leading US daily said on Thursday and asked the US Congress to close the loopholes as some companies skirt rules for using H-1B workers by outsourcing recruitment to India-based firms like Tata and Infosys.

“There is no doubt that H-1B visas — temporary work permits for specially talented foreign professionals — are instead being used by American employers to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labour,” the New York Times said in an editorial titled ‘Visa Abuses Harm American Workers’.

“…what Congress really needs to do is close the loopholes that allow H-1B abuses,” it said.

It said the visas are supposed to be used only to hire college-educated foreigners in “specialty occupations” requiring “highly specialised knowledge” but in many cases, laid-off American workers have been required to train their lower-paid replacements.

While lawmakers from both parties have denounced the visa abuse, it is increasingly widespread mainly because of loopholes in the law.

The daily said companies are able to “skirt the rules for using H-1B workers by outsourcing the actual hiring of those workers to Tata, Infosys and other temporary staffing firms, mostly based in India.”

It also cited the case of Illinois-based health care giant Abbott Laboratories, Southern California Edison,Disney, Toys “R” Us and New York Life which laid off American employees and hired foreigners for their jobs.

“Criticism of the visa process has been muted, and reform has moved slowly, partly because laid-off American workers — mostly tech employees replaced by Indian guest workers — have not loudly protested. Their reticence does not mean acceptance or even resignation,” it said.

A report by the newspaper earlier this week had said that most of the displaced workers had to sign agreements prohibiting them from criticising their former employers as a condition of receiving severance pay.

“The gag orders have largely silenced the laid-off employees, while allowing the employers to publicly defend their actions as legal, which is technically accurate, given the loopholes in the law,” it said.

Employees laid-off by American companies are now beginning to speak out against their employers as well as against the alleged H1B visa abuse, it said.

Fourteen former tech workers at Abbott, including one who forfeited a chunk of severance pay rather than sign a so-called nondisparagement agreement, have filed federal claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying they were discriminated against because of their ages and American citizenship.

Congressional leaders of both parties have questioned the non-disparagement agreements. Bipartisan legislation in the Senate would revise visa laws to allow former employees to protest their layoffs, the editorial added.

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