Immigration: Legislative Issues on Nonimmigrant Professional Specialty (H-1B) Workers [Updated August 8, 2003]   [open pdf - 94KB]

"The economic prosperity of the 1990s fueled a drive to increase the levels of employment-based immigration. Both the Congress and the Federal Reserve Board then expressed concern that a scarcity of labor could curtail the pace of economic growth. A primary response was to increase the supply of foreign temporary professional workers through FY2003. The 108th Congress now weighs whether to extend the increases or let the levels revert to the statutory limit. Certain labor market protections aimed at firms whose workforce is more than 15% H-1B workers also sunset at the end of FY2003. The inclusion of temporary worker provisions in free trade agreements (S. 1416/H.R 2738 and S. 1417/H.R. 2739) as well as national security concerns are also sparking debate. The 106th Congress enacted the 'American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000' (S. 2045, P.L. 106-313) with bipartisan support in October 2000. That law raised the number of H-1B visas by 297,500 over 3 years. It also made changes in the use of the H-1B fees for education and training, notably earmarking a portion of training funds for skills that are in information technology shortage areas and adding a K-12 math, science and technology education grant program. P.L. 106-311 increased the H-1B fee, authorized through FY2003, from $500 to $1,000. The 107th Congress enacted provisions that allow H-1B workers to remain beyond the statutory limits if their employers petitioned for them to become legal permanent residents."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL30498
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