AILA Press Release on Passage of H-1B Bill


Contact: LaVita Strickland
September 25, 1998
Phone: (202) 216-2404



House Passage of Temporary Foreign Professionals Legislation Brings Nation

One Step Closer to Resolving High Tech Skill Shortage

Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would bring the nation’s high tech industry one step closer to averting a nationwide skills crisis, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Today’s action ratified an accord struck by the White House and key Congressional leaders. The legislation overwhelmingly adopted today addressed the dual needs of American businesses and labor. The measure expands the temporary skilled worker (H-1B) program to maintain economic competitiveness and protects U.S. workers from unfair labor practices. The Senate is expected to take up the measure within the next week.

"AILA and its more than 5,500 members applaud the efforts of Congress and the President to work out their differences. The H-1B bill represents a bipartisan effort to expand the visa program to enable U.S. companies to fill important vacancies with top-flight foreign professionals. At the same time, the bill would invest in upgrading the skills of our current workforce and educating younger generations so that they can successfully compete in the future," said AILA President Jimmy Wu.

Currently, no more than 65,000 foreign temporary visas (known as H-1B visas) are issued each year. This year, that cap was reached in May. High demand for high-tech professionals has created a enormous backlog. Without an increase in visas, the fiscal year 1999 cap for this category could be reached as early as December 1998. The bill passed today by the House temporarily would increase 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 would also bolster labor protection for U.S. workers, and provide additional funding for college scholarships and job training for American workers.

"This legislation will ensure that America’s competitive edge is not paralyzed by its inability to reach some of the world’s best and the brightest, many of whom are locked in a backlog," added AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield. "The H-1B legislation will provide enough visas this year to avoid major backlogs and disruptions in research and production."

"What distinguishes America from its world-wide competitors is our willingness to invest in the human skills and intellectual capital of American and foreign professionals," Ms. Butterfield continued. "We commend the efforts of the White House and congressional negotiators in this regard. We are encouraged by their recognition that this is not a zero-sum game. By extending a welcome mat to individuals who come here to contribute their unique skills and dynamic vision, and coupling that with a commitment to enhance our own domestic talent base, the American people as a nation wins in the end."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is a voluntary bar association of over 5,500 lawyers and law professors practicing and teaching in the field of immigration and nationality law. Its members represent the entire spectrum of those involved in our country’s immigration laws, from aliens seeking immigration benefits to employers, U.S. citizens and other U.S. entities seeking to sponsor foreign nationals.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98092959.