House bill aims to provide IT worker shortage relief

A bill introduced Wednesday would increase the number of visas that employers

could use to hire highly trained foreign workers in areas such as information

technology.

The Helping to Improve Technology and Education and Achievement (HI-TECH)

Act introduced by Reps. David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.),

would temporarily increase the cap on H-1B visas to 200,000. The current

cap is 115,000 per year.

Of the 200,000 visas, 10,000 would be reserved for colleges and universities,

and 60,000 would be reserved for people holding master's or doctoral degrees.

The bill also would raise the visa filing fee from $500 to $1,000.

The H-1B visa program provides a way for U.S. employers to quickly hire

foreign professionals temporarily. Increasingly, employers are using the

visas to hire technology workers.

A similar bill (S. 2045) that would raise the H-1B visa cap to 195,000 recently

passed the Senate. Meanwhile, a House bill (H.R. 3814) that would raise

the quota to 160,000 this year was introduced March 1 and is awaiting action.

A spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said the HIGH-TECH Act has strong

bipartisan support and is the most likely to get passed by Congress.

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