Give U.S. your tired, your poor ? and your high-tech workers

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced legislation this week to decrease the shortage of information technology workers in the United States by allowing more foreign specialists to get visas.

The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act would amend Title 8 of the U.S. Code, allowing Congress to raise the cap on H-1B visas issued to foreign information technology workers. Instead of 115,000 workers being allowed visas, 195,000 would be admitted to the country during the next three years.

The act would also exempt persons from the cap who came to work for universities, government research centers or nonprofit organizations or had recently received an advanced degree from a U.S. institution.

The act, which received bipartisan support, was co-sponsored by senators Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

In 1999, Congress approved the 21st Century Technology Resources and Commercial Leadership Act, which allowed for a cap increase from 67,000 to 115,00 and established a $500 fee per visa. An increase in the cap is necessary again because 1999's visa allotment was gone by June, Abraham testified when the act was introduced.

The effort is an attempt to piggyback on the success of the Technology Resources and Commercial Leadership Act, which raised more than $75 million for high-tech training last year, and increase funding for U.S. citizens. The new bill would raise an estimated $375 million during the next three years to train and educate citizens and provide more than 50,000 scholarships in math, science or engineering to American students.

A copy of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act is available at thomas.loc.gov.

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