Senate passes H-1B visa bill
- By IDG News Service, Sam Costello
- Oct 04, 2000
American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000
The Senate voted Tuesday to increase the number of H-1B visas issued over
the next three years by nearly 300,000, a move seen as helping the shortage
of skilled information technology workers.
H-1B visas are temporary visas issued to foreign workers who come to
the United States to work for a six-year term.
The high-tech industry has been hindered by worker shortages, and this
bill goes a long way toward relieving those shortages, said Marc Brailov,
the public communications director for the American Electronics Association,
an industry trade group.
The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000 (S.2045)
will amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. Introduced by Sen. Orrin
Hatch (R-Utah), the bill will raise the cap on H-1B visas for each of the
next three fiscal years. It passed 96-1.
Currently, Immigration and Naturalization Service issues 115,000 such
visas a year, but under the new law, it will be able to issue an additional
85,000 in 2000, 87,500 in 2001 and 130,000 in 2002.
The bill also increases the portability of the visas. Previously, holders
of H-1B visas could not legally change jobs. The new act removes this restriction
and also allows visa holders to remain in the United States during visa
hearings instead of being immediately deported.
High-tech industries had pushed for the passage of the bill because
they say they cannot find enough qualified Americans to fill their employment
Passing the bill "is a vote for keeping the U.S. at the forefront of
the global economy," said Bob Cohen, the senior vice president of the Information
Technology Association of America (ITAA), another trade group that had been
pushing for the bill.
Also included in the bill are several programs designed to appease those
who complain that jobs are being taken away from Americans. The bill directs
the National Science Foundation to conduct a study of the digital divide
and report to Congress within 18 months. It also allots funds to NSF to
fund programs in elementary and high schools in math, science and technology