H1B Visa Bills
S 1723, S 1823, HR 3736

Overview.  S 1723 passed the Senate on May 18, 1998. On September 24, the House passed a compromise version endorsed by House and Senate negotiators, and belatedly, by President Clinton. The bill was passed as a part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill in October 1999, and signed by Clinton.

Summary of S 1723.

S 1723 addresses the shortage of skilled professionals in high tech computer fields.  It has gone through several different versions.  However, S 1723 ES (as enacted by the Senate) would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC 1101 et. seq., by increasing the number of H1B visas, by creating a new H1C visa category for certain health care workers (thus removing them from the H1B category), and by allowing unused H2B visas to be used.   S 1723 ES would increase the annual cap from the current 65,000 to 95,000 in 1999.   It would set a complex mathematical formula for the years 2000 - 2002.  The bill also provides for a National Science Foundation study of labor market needs for workers with high tech skills.  It would also reform the rules governing the granting of visas, and reform the "prevailing wage" considerations. In addition, the bill would relax the per country limitation on H1B visas in some situations.  Finally, the bill addresses penalties for violation of the H1B or H1C programs.  This is the bill most favored by high tech companies facing worker shortages.  It passed the Senate on May 18.

Legislative History of S 1723 with Links to Related Materials.

Summary of S 1878.

S 1878 is a pro-labor bill offered as an alternative to S 1723.  It was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a straight party line vote.  It would have increased the annual cap on H1B visas from 65,000 to 90,000 for three years.  It would also have increased the requirements placed upon employers seeking to qualify for H1B workers, and greatly increased the Department of Labor's enforcement powers.

Summary of HR 3736.

HR 3736 IH would increase the annual cap on H1B visas from the current level of 65,000,  to 95,000 in 1998, to 105,000 in 1999, and to 115,000 in 2000.  It would also require that employers first recruit U.S. workers.  It would also prohibit displacement of U.S. workers.  Finally, it would increase the enforcement powers of the U.S. Department of Labor, and increase penalties.

On June 23, House and Senate leaders negotiated a "compromise bill," HR 3736 RH.  This bill would make another 20,000 visas available for the remainder of 1998.  The cap would be set at 95,000 in 1999, 105,000 in 2000, and 115,000 for 2001 and 2002.  It would revert to 65,000 thereafter.  This bill increases layoff protection for American workers in three ways.  1) A company that is H-1B dependent (defined as having a workforce of 15% or more H-1Bs) must attest that it will not layoff an American employee in the same job 90 days before or after the filing a petition for an H-1B professional. 2) An H-1B dependent company must attest that it will not place an H-1B professional in another company to fill the same job held by a laid off American. 3) If a U.S. employer commits a willful violation and underpays an individual on an H-1B visa and replaces an American worker, that employer will be hit with a 2-year debarment from all employment immigration programs and be slapped with a $25,000 fine per violation. This 3rd provision applies to all employers, regardless of their level of H-1B usage.

The House initially delayed voting on this compromise bill because Clinton threatened to veto it.  However, the President changed his position, and the House passed it on September 24.

Legislative History of HR 3736 with Links to Related Materials.

Links to Relevant Sections of Current Visa Laws.

Tech Law Journal Stories.

Senate Holds H1B Visa Hearing, 2/25/98.
Sen. Abraham Introduces H1B Bill, 3/7/98.
GAO Questions IT Worker Shortage, 3/25/98.
Kennedy/Feinstein Introduce H1B Bill, 3/27/98.
Bills: Abraham v. Kennedy/Feinstein, 3/30/98.
H1B Bill Passes Senate Committee, 4/2/98.
H1B Bills Advance in Congress, 5/21/98.
Congressional Leaders Reach Agreement, 7/25/98.
H1B Visa Bills Stall In Congress, 8/12/98.
Gov. Wilson Tells Clinton to Sign H1B Bill, 8/26/98.
House Passes H1B Visa Bill, 9/24/98.

Other Resources.