| WASHINGTON, April 16
WASHINGTON, April 16 The U.S. Senate immigration
bill outlined Tuesday attempts to meet long-sought demands from
America's technology sector for more high-skilled workers from
abroad to fill the gap created by a shortage of American
Under the proposed bipartisan legislation outlined Tuesday,
the official quota of "H1-B" visas for high-skilled, foreign
workers would increase by 69 percent to 110,000.
But businesses would need to pay these employees high
salaries and ensure qualified American applicants are not passed
The visa quota could go as high as 180,000 in future years
from the current 65,000 limit, based on certain conditions,
according to an outline of the bill.
In addition, the number of visas for foreigners who hold
advanced degrees from U.S. universities would increase to 25,000
from the current 20,000.
Businesses, particularly tech companies, have lobbied for
more H-1B visas for years. Companies apply for these visas
annually, and demand routinely outstrips supply.
The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa in the United States that
allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in
specialty occupations. The duration of stay is three years,
extendable to six years.
Earlier this month, the United States awarded 85,000 H-1B
visas while receiving about 124,000 applications.
Critics of the H-1B visas say the program allows companies
to pay foreign workers lower salaries than they pay to Americans
with comparable skills.
To address this concern, the Senate's draft legislation
calls for employers "to pay significantly higher wages for H-1B
workers than under current law," the outline said.
Businesses would also need to advertise to American workers
first any job openings that could be obtained by foreign
Companies that are found to be abusing the visa program
would be hit with penalties.
More broadly, the Senate's proposal would phase in
requirements that businesses of all sizes verify an employee's
Separately, the proposed legislation would create a new visa
for foreign entrepreneurs looking to emigrate to the United
States to start their own companies.
Another part of the proposed legislation creates a new
system for admitting temporary workers for unskilled jobs -
janitors, hotel and restaurant workers and laborers - for
companies that can show they need them.
Businesses will need to file an estimate of the number of
these employees they want to hire, the dates of employment and a
description of the type of work.
Businesses can be denied permission to hire these workers if
they have previously violated certain U.S. labor rules.
Yet another section of the legislation would cover the flow
of agricultural workers, creating a new "guest worker" visa
program to ensure an adequate agriculture workforce.
A portable "W" category of visa would replaced the current
H-2A visa program for agricultural employment.