Congress Proposes Legislation to Expand Foreign Technology Worker Visas

By Tracey E. Schelmetic January 29, 2013

It’s ironic that during a time of relatively high and stagnant unemployment, many companies are reporting difficulties in hiring certain types of employees, but in recent years, this has been the case. The nation has experienced a particularly acute shortage of skilled high-tech workers. Traditionally, companies have filled in the gap using what’s known as H-1B workers.

An H-1B is a non-immigrant visa created under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. It allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in certain specialty occupations, including high technology. If an H-1B worker quits or is dismissed from his or her sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer willing to sponsor another H-1B or leave the U.S.

Image via Shutterstock

The problem with H-1B visas is that they are not unlimited, and many companies are having difficulty obtaining them to fill in their high-tech employment gaps. Congress hopes to address this shortage this week with the introduction of new legislation.

The bill, called the Immigration Innovation Act, or I-Squared, proposes to significantly increase the H-1B visa cap for skilled foreign workers and allow foreign graduates with advanced technical degrees from U.S. universities to stay in the U.S., The Hill is reporting today

The measure may ultimately fall under the umbrella of larger immigration reform legislation currently being drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators. The eight members unveiled a set of principles for the comprehensive framework on Monday. It included a measure calling for "attracting and keeping the world's best and brightest."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), one of the co-sponsors of the H1-B legislation, said it "could easily be" included in the working group's comprehensive legislation.

"That's something to work on going forward, but we thought this issue is so important to moving the economy forward [that] we wanted to get started on this right away and put some meat on the bone of what they're talking about," Klobuchar told The Hill.

Technology companies, such as Microsoft, have already expressed their approval of the bill.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Contributor

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