H-1B Visa Bill Gets Key House Committee Approval

H-1B Visa Bill Gets Key House Committee Approval

By Jennifer Freer, Staff Writer

MAY 17 - The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill May 17 written by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, that sets no cap on the number of H-1B visas given to temporary foreign high-technology workers for three years beginning in fiscal 2001.

Smith is chairman of the panel's immigration subcommittee.

"The Judiciary Committee's action is another step toward enactment of balanced legislation," Smith said. "This is the only H-1B bill before Congress that is good for both the high-tech industry and American workers."

The H-1B visa is a time-limited visa issued to highly skilled foreign professionals to fill specific high-tech job openings in the United States. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service issues H-1B visas over the course of the federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The agency used up its annual allotment of 115,000 in March, and the IT industry is now waiting until October for new visas to be issued.

The Smith bill, one of three offered in Congress this year, is the only one that sets no cap on the number of H-1B visas for the three-year period. It imposes a minimum salary requirement of $40,000 for H-1B visa workers, but not for U.S. workers. Also, companies that want to use the visas must have gross assets of
at least $250,000.

Smith also is working with Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. William Goodling, R-Pa., on legislation produced by Goodling's panel that establishes new education and training initiatives for American workers seeking high-tech jobs.

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