Congress approves H1-B visa bill

The hightech industry hails the vote to increase the number of H1B visas issued over the next three years by nearly 300,000

American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000

The House followed the Senate on Tuesday, approving a measure that would

increase the number of H-1B visas issued to foreign workers, a move seen

as helping the shortage of skilled information technology workers.

The House approved the same bill that made it through the Senate and will

go directly to President Clinton, who must sign it into law before it takes


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.

By a voice vote, the House approved the American Competitiveness in the

21st Century Act of 2000 (S. 2045), which amends the Immigration and Nationality

Act. The bill raises the number of visas issued by the Immigration and

Naturalization Service from

115,000 annually to 195,000 each year for fiscal years 2001-03.

The Senate earlier in the day approved the bill 96-1, with Fritz Hollings

(D-S.C.) casting the dissenting vote. Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California,

Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut did

not vote.

"This is one short-term answer to our needs," said Rep. Lloyd Daggett (D-Texas).

"We have a serious problem with unemployment being at an all-time low [and]

getting the workers we need."

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, 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


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