Kennedy and Feinstein Introduce
Short Term H1-B Visa Bill

(March 27, 1998)  Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill today that would briefly increase the annual cap on H1B visas.   The bill pertains to the shortage of skilled professionals in high tech computer fields. 

Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, has already introduced another bill which would increase the H1B cap, S 1723.    However, under the Abraham bill, the increase would be permanent, while under the Kennedy/Feinstein bill it would be temporary.

The new bill also would shorten the duration of H1B visas from six years to three years, increase Department of Labor's investigation and enforcement powers, and create a fund for providing training loans to individuals and grants to organizations.

“Permanently increasing the number of foreign workers is the wrong answer to our long-term need for high tech workers." said Feinstein in a press release.  Under her bill, the cap would revert to the current 65,000 per year after FY 2001.  See, Press Release, below.

The new bill is numbered S 1878 and titled “The High Tech Immigration and United States Worker Protection Act.”  It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Both Kennedy and Feinstein are members of Committee.  The Committee is scheduled to hold a business meeting on Thursday, April 2.


Press Release Issued by the Office of Sen. Diane Feinstein.

Washington, DC -- Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), ranking member of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation today which temporarily increases the number of visas available for companies to bring in foreign skilled workers. The legislation, which temporarily raises the limit on H1-B visas, is primarily aimed at addressing the current demand for skilled workers in the high tech industry. The Bill also requires that US employers make reasonable efforts to recruit U.S. workers before hiring foreign workers.

The legislation, called “The High Tech Immigration and United States Worker Protection Act,” would temporarily raise the immigration quota of temporary foreign professional and skilled workers (“H-1B visas”), which includes high tech workers, to 90,000 per year for a period of three years. The bill raises the number of H1-B visas by one-third from the current annual limit of 65,000 visas annually to 90,000 and provides that the number of additional skilled workers be taken from the unskilled worker quota. After FY 2001, the level would return to 65,000 visas annually.

The legislation also creates a $100 million training program for U.S. workers. This would include $90 million for loans to workers to obtain training and $10 million to local “regional skills alliances” to identify local labor market needs and develop strategies.

“The legislation that Senator Kennedy and I are introducing today is a temporary solution to what is hopefully a short term problem,” Senator Feinstein said. “America must make a long term investment in our nation’s children so that our high tech industries are not dependent on foreign workers as a long term solution.”

“This legislation temporarily increases the H-1B skilled worker visas so that high tech companies can meet the current demand for highly skilled workers,” Senator Feinstein said. “Permanently increasing the number of foreign workers is the wrong answer to our long-term need for high tech workers.

“There is no question that the American high tech industry must remain competitive in the international marketplace. But as we address this important issue, we must not lose sight of the need to ensure that American workers and our children are prepared to meet the needs of a 21st century economy. ”