FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: LaVita Strickland
Office: (202) 216-2404
IMMIGRATION ADVOCATES CAP LEGISLATIVE YEAR WITH
SUCCESS ON SKILLED IMMIGRANTS MEASURE
Additional High-Tech Visas Will Fuel Economic Growth and Create American Jobs, AILA Says
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 16, 1998—Just days after high tech visa legislation had been prematurely pronounced dead, Congress is poised to pass the measure on Tuesday as part of the larger Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The President is expected to sign the measure into law once it is sent to the White House.
"Passage of this legislation will represent a victory for America: for American businesses that can now bring in a relatively small number of high-tech professionals to create many more jobs for U.S. workers; for our universities now able to acquire world class professors and researchers; and for underserved communities nationwide now able to secure doctors," said American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) President Jimmy Wu. "Without these professionals, we Americans faced the future with one hand tied behind our back. The 65,000 cap was essentially a cap on the potential of our country."
Last month, the House supported legislation to increase the number of visas available to foreign temporary professionals (known as H-1Bs professionals) by a margin of 288-133. Earlier, the Senate had overwhelmingly passed a less restrictive version, 78-20. Prospects for Senate passage last week of a compromise version appeared doomed, however, after a lone Senator blocked consideration of the bill last Friday on a last minute objection. But strong support in the Senate and from the White House for more H-1B visas ensured its passage as part of the omnibus bill.
"The H-1B provision will ensure that America remains the high-tech mecca of the world. Today’s congressional action means that our country’s competitive edge will not be paralyzed by the inability to welcome some of the world’s best and brightest, many of whom to date have been locked in an unfortunate backlog," added AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield.
Prior to enactment of this legislation, the INS could issue no more than 65,000 H-1B visas each year. Last fiscal year, that cap was reached prematurely in May. As a result, high demand for high-tech professionals had created an enormous backlog. Without an increase in visas, the fiscal year 1999 cap for this category could have been reached as early as December 1998.
The bill passed today by Congress temporarily increases the number of H-1B visas for foreign, high-skilled professionals from 65,000 to 115,000 for fiscal years 1999 and 2000, and 107,500 in 2001. It also would bolster labor protections for U.S. workers, and provide additional funding for college scholarships and job training for American workers.