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Growing the New Economy with Increased Training and Additional Skilled Workers

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Growing the New Economy with Increased Training and Additional Skilled Workers

October 17, 2000

Growing the New Economy with Increased Training and Additional Skilled Workers

President Clinton today signed new legislation to increase the number of H-1B visas available to bring in highly skilled foreign temporary workers, and to double the fee charged to employers using the program in order to provide critical funding for training U.S. workers and students. Many companies report that their number one constraint on growth is the inability to hire workers with the necessary skills. S. 2045, the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act, and the untitled H.R. 5362 together recognize the importance of allowing additional skilled workers to work in the United States in the short run, while supporting longer-term efforts to prepare American workers for the jobs of the new economy by increasing our investments in education and training. The President also called on Congress to ensure fairness for immigrants who have lived and worked in this country for years for passing the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act.

A PREPARED WORKFORCE FOR AMERICA TODAY AND IN THE FUTURE Together, these laws accomplish a number of key Administration priorities:

  • Increase the number of H-1B visas available to 195,000 for each of the next three years (prior law would have capped the visas at 107,500 for FY 2001, and 65,000 for subsequent years);
  • Increase the fee charged to employers using the H-1B program from $500 per visa to $1000, and direct the majority of these funds to training U.S. workers. In FY 2001 alone, the new legislation will generate an estimated $170 million in additional funds to educate and train U.S. students and workers, including an estimated additional:
  • $101 million to the Labor Department to fund projects to train U.S. workers seeking the necessary skills for jobs for which employers seek H-1B workers.
  • $69 million for the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships to low-income individuals pursuing degrees in math, engineering or computer science and to support programs to improve K-12 education in math, science and technology.
  • Generate, through the increased fees, an estimated $15 million of additional funds this year for the Departments of Labor and Justice for program administration and enforcement.
  • Extend the hard-won protections for U.S. workers included in the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998.

PRESIDENT DIRECTS MONITORING OF IMPACT OF CERTAIN PROVISIONS The President is concerned that certain provisions in the legislation could, in some cases: 1) weaken existing protections designed to ensure that the H-1B program does not undercut the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers; and 2) increase the vulnerability of H-1B workers to any unscrupulous employers using the program. The President has directed the Immigration and Naturalization Service, in consultation with the Departments of State and Labor, to monitor the impact of these provisions to determine whether the next Congress should revisit these changes to the H-1B program:

  • H-1B Visa Portability would allow an H-1B visa holder to work for an employer who has not yet been approved for H-1B program participation.
  • Extensions of H-1B Visa Status could have the unintended consequence of allowing an H-1B visa holder applying for permanent resident status to remain in H-1B status well beyond the current six-year limit on H-1B visas while waiting for a permanent visa to become available.

MORE WORK REMAINS TO BE DONE The President remains committed to ensuring fairness for immigrants who have been in this country for years, working hard and paying taxes. The Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act (LIFA) will allow people who have lived here for fifteen years or more, and established families and strong ties to their communities, to become permanent residents. It will also amend the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) to extend the same protections currently offered to people from Cuba and Nicaragua to immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti and Liberia who fled to this country to escape serious hardships. Finally, it will allow families to stay together while their applications for permanent resident status are being processed. The President continues to strongly insist on passage of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act this year, before Congress adjourns.

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