20 years of H-1Bs

November 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

When Congress created the H-1B visa program 20 years ago this month, it sent the American IT industry into uncharted territory from which it has yet to emerge. The U.S. had an H-1 visa for foreign nationals with “distinguished merit and ability” prior to 1990, but that year, in response to warnings of an emerging “skills gap” or “skills mismatch” among U.S. engineering and technology professionals, Congress broadened the scope of the visa. The H-1B incorporated specialty occupations — including such IT roles as programming, systems analysis, and network and systems support — with a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree. The H-1B visa also allowed workers to pursue permanent residency. Over the years, supporters of the visa have included Microsoft’s Bill Gates and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2009 told Congress that the annual visa cap of 85,000 is “too small to meet the need” and that protecting U.S. IT workers from global competition creates a “privileged elite.” (computerworld)

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