Illinois Congressman John Porter Thinks Increasing H-1B limits is a good idea

This is a response to a letter that Robert B. Johnson wrote to Illinois Congressman John Porter. Robert Johnson is public relations chairman of the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois.

Mr. Robert B. Johnson
1409 Rachel Lane
Buffalo Grave, Illinois 60089

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Thank you for contacting me regarding increasing the number of non-immigrant professional specialty visas, commonly known as H-1B visas, issued to highly skilled foreign workers.

As you may know, a recent Department of Labor (DOL) study estimated that over the next ten years, 1.3 million new jobs related to computers and information technology will be created. This same study estimated that American universities and colleges would only produce about a quarter of the graduates needed to fill these positions. In addition, technology industry experts have testified before: Congress that thousands of jobs in their companies have gone unfilled for lack of skilled workers. These factors seem to point to a large and growing labor shortage among high-tech workers. Under current law, a United States employer may legally bring an alien to the U.S. for a specific purpose and a temporary period of time under the H-1B visa workers program.

I feel that increasing the number of available H-1B visas will make American businesses more competitive in the global marketplace. It seems unreasonable for the federal government to severely restrict U.S. companies in their hiring of foreign professionals when there are so few qualified American workers to fill these positions. At the same time, however, we must work to improve our domestic workforce training programs to ensure that we are not reliant upon alien labor sources in the future.

The H-1B visa category is limited by law to no more than 65,000 new admissions each year. In 1998, Congress enacted legislation to temporarily increase the number of H-1B visas to 115,000 visas for 1999 and 2000. In mid-March of this year, the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2000 ceiling of 115,000 would be reached by June. Many in the business community, notably in the information technology area, are again urging that the ceiling be raised, and legislation to do so has been introduced.

As you may know, House Judiciary Immigration and Claims Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith introduced H.R. 4227, which would eliminate the numerical limit on H-1 B visas for FY2000 and would allow for temporary increases in FY2001 and FY2002, if certain conditions are met. These requirements include adding a $40,000 minimum salary, filing W-2 forms, new reporting requirements, and anti-fraud provisions funded by a $100 fee. It would give the U.S. Secretary of State responsibility for maintaining records on H-IB non-immigrants. A number of other bills have been introduced on this subject, and it is difficult to know what provisions will be included in the fraud versions of these bills. I will continue to monitor this issue with the interests of the business community and American workers in mind.

I appreciate the time you took to contact me o his important matter. I hope that you will continue to feel free to communicate with me whenever issues of concern to you come before the Congress.