Push for tech worker visas renewed
- By IDG News Service, Margret Johnston
- Sep 07, 2000
American Electronics Association
As Congress returns this week from its August recess, high-tech groups are
urging lawmakers to raise the cap on H-1B visas, which allow skilled foreigners
to work in the United States for up to six years.
The cap of 115,000 H-1B visas for fiscal 2000 was reached in March,
and the Immigration and Naturalization Service will begin processing a backlog
of about 60,000 applicants when fiscal 2001 begins next month.
With such a large backlog, the fiscal 2001 cap of 107,500 could be reached
even before calendar 2001 begins, said Thom Stohler, director of workforce
policy at the American Electronics Association, a Washington, D.C.-based
trade group representing more than 3,000 technology firms.
"The cap drops to 65,000 on Oct. 1, 2001," Stohler said. "That illustrates
how strongly we need the cap raised."
The H-1B visa program provides a way for U.S. employers, including government
agencies and contractors, to quickly hire foreign professionals temporarily.
Increasingly, the visas are being used to fill IT-related positions as the
economy becomes more dependent on the high-tech industry.
Two bills pending in Congress would increase the H-1B visa cap to about
200,000 annually and would take additional steps such as exempting foreign
nationals who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced technology degrees
from having to go through the H-1B visa process.
Bipartisan support exists for H-1B legislation, but an agreement has
been stalled over other, unrelated immigration issues being raised by Democrats.
Stohler said he was fairly confident Congress would take up the H-1B
legislation before adjourning in October, and he added that if the cap is
raised, the next step would be seeking a permanent solution to the H-1B
visa program so that it does not have to be dealt with every year.
Information from Computerworld and Federal Computer Week contributed to