Congress Opens Doors For High-Tech Workers

There's good news for U.S. companies scrambling to find high-tech workers. The short-term solution: Companies now will be able to hire 337,500 skilled workers from foreign countries over the next three years. That's 73% more skilled foreign workers than they would have been able to hire before a compromise made in Congress on Sept. 23. (The previous cap was 195,000). The House-approved legislation is now awaiting a sure-thing Senate vote. Long-term, the legislative deal intends to alleviate the shortage of such workers in the U.S. by providing funds for job training and college scholarships. Under the compromise, the number of temporary work visas that the Immigration and Naturalization Service can issue for highly skilled information technology foreign workers will be 115,000 in both 1999 and 2000, and 107,500 in 2001. After 2002 the number will return to the current level of 65,000 a year. (The 65,000 cap was reached this year by early May). In the same three-year time frame, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide 10,000 college scholarships and mentoring programs in math, computer science, and engineering to low-income U.S. students. The NSF also will provide training to others through the federal Jobs Partnership Act.

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