IEEE is pushing Congress to enact legislation that requires companies to use L-1 visas strictly for their intended purposes. The group says the visa systems are being abused, and as a result, preventing U.S. workers from finding work.

The purpose of an L-1 visa is to enable multinational corporate executives, managers, and employees with special skills to work at subsidiaries in the United States on a temporary basis. However, IEEE claims companies are using the visas to move foreign guest workers into the country as a source of lower-cost contract labor.

State Department figures show the number of L-1 visas increased from 38,307 in 1998 to 57,721 in 2002. This increase seems to correlate with the rise in U.S. high-tech unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical and electronics engineers were unemployed at a rate of 1% in 1997 and a rate of 6.7% by the third quarter of 2003.

Ultimately, IEEE wants the legislation to close what it perceives as loopholes in the visa programs and strengthen enforcement and penalties for those who violate the laws.