Congress Passes Bill Increasing H-1B Visas

Congress Passes Bill Increasing H-1B Visas

By Jennifer Freer, Staff Writer

OCT. 3-Congress Oct. 3 passed legislation that increases to 195,000 the number of temporary visas that can be issued annually to skilled foreign workers.

The Senate approved the measure by a 96-1 vote. It passed in the House by a voice vote.

The H-1B visa is a time-limited visa issued to foreign professionals to fill specific jobs within the United States. The technology industry has been pushing for more foreign workers to offset the shortage of skilled U.S. workers.

"Because this program helps mitigate the problem of skilled-worker shortages, this program has been, and will continue to be, a top priority for the high-tech industry," said William Archey, president and chief executive officer of the American Electronics Association, a Washington-based organization supporting the measure.

The legislation would allow the Immigration and Naturalization Service to issue up to 195,000 six-year temporary visas annually for the next three years to skilled foreign workers. The legislation also would exempt from the cap foreign graduates of U.S. master's or doctoral programs or foreign workers at U.S. colleges.

Under current law, the government issued 115,000 H-1B visas during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Without new legislation, the number of H-1B visas would fall to 107,500 this year and to 65,000 next year.

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