New H1-B Visa Law Could Impact the IT Industry

The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act makes radical changes to the laws governing foreigners seeking employment in the USA. These changes impact the IT industry as the law raises the number of H1-B visas for foreign workers from 107,500 to 195,000 for each of the fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003 and makes the H1-B visa portable, allowing visa holders to change employers at will without the fear and complication of being out of visa status.

"The new law is very good news for the IT industry as it makes a new pool of people available," says Donna Preston, Vice President of Commercial Programming Systems (CPS), a Los Angeles-based contract service firm for IT professionals. "We now have access to highly-skilled people who previously were not available to us, due to visa constraints," continues Preston. "It gives us an expanded resource of highly skilled and experienced people to draw from and as a contract service provider to the IT industry, we can offer this expanded base of skills to our clients."

Transferring an H1-B visa is now a simple procedure -- all that has to happen is a new visa application must be filed with the INS. As soon as the INS receives the visa petition the worker can transfer to a new job if desired. It is no longer necessary to wait for the new visa application to be approved.

The Act states that anyone who had a valid H1-B three years ago and has been out of status for the last year can have their visa reinstated if they have been resident in the U.S. for this period of time. These reinstatements will not count towards the cap. Visas can be extended beyond the six-year period and will be extended in one-year increments. Green Card adjustment of status applicants, whose cases have been pending 180 days or more, can change employers without invalidating the process as long as it is for similar or same occupation classification.

"There have been instances of companies abusing the visa situation," comments Alan Strong, President of CPS. "Foreign workers were brought in and paid far less than the going rate. They had no option but to stay with that employer or lose their visa. Although the old Act stated that foreign workers had to be paid a competitive wage, companies could bring them in saying the final destination would be Nebraska, where the wages are significantly lower, but in fact they would be put to work in New York or Los Angeles. The new law makes it more equitable and competitive for both American citizens and foreign workers."