IEEE-USA is pleased Congress strengthens technical workforce protections, disappointed in additional 20,000 H-1B exemptions
WASHINGTON (24 November 2004)- IEEE-USA is pleased Congress strengthened education provisions and technical workforce protections in the omnibus appropriations bill it passed Saturday, but is disappointed it chose to create an additional H-1B visa exemption category.
The bill (H.R. 4818) will grant up to 20,000 H-1B visas to international students who've earned advanced degrees in the United States. IEEE-USA had recommended Congress hold hearings before granting this exemption.
"While we wish Congress hadn't created another H-1B exemption category, we're pleased that it was capped at 20,000," IEEE-USA President John Steadman said. "We expect industry to ask the next Congress to raise the H-1B cap from its historical 65,000 level, but we urge our lawmakers not to further increase job competition for the more than 100,000 U.S. technical professionals currently unemployed."
The bill reinstates the H-1B visa application fee that expired in 2003 and raises it from $1,000 to $1,500. It also increases the National Science Foundation's low-income scholarship stipend from $3,125 to $10,000 a year. The program helps qualified individuals pursue advanced degrees in engineering, science, technology and mathematics.
H.R. 4818 requires U.S. employers to pay H-1B workers 100 percent of the prevailing wage (vs. 95 percent previously) in their intended area of employment. The Department of Labor's authority to investigate abuses of H-1B program has been expanded.
The legislation also restricts the ability of companies that bring foreign employees into the country on L-1 (intra-company transfer) visas to put them to work for unaffiliated employers. H.R. 4818 increases the prior continuous employment requirement of L-1 workers from six months to one year for blanket petitions.
"We pleased Congress has enacted reforms that will help to stem high-tech workforce abuses of U.S. and foreign workers," Steadman said. "And it's good to see more funding earmarked for workforce education and training."
The bill also provides a $2 million grant to the National Academy of Public Administration to study the impact of offshoring on the U.S. economy and workforce. IEEE-USA met with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) earlier this year and encouraged him to earmark funding for a comprehensive offshoring study.
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