Debate and parliamentary tactics Thursday night continued to delay a vote on a bill that would increase H-1B visas for the next three years. Despite the maneuvering, the U.S. Senate is expected to pass the measure when it reconvenes Monday after its weekend recess for Rosh Hashanah.
The measure raises the cap on the number of H-1B visas the UnitedStates will issue: 80,000 for this year, 87,500 for next year, and 130,000 for 2002. Through the program, scores of skilled IT workers from overseas, most notably India, have come here to work.
While an increase in H-1B visas will certainly help with the short-term IT labor shortage, it may be, as one observer put it, "shooting spitballs at a battleship." Estimates of the tech-worker shortage vary widely, from 600,000 to as high as several million, depending on who is assessing and how technology workers are defined.
An amendment to the bill attempts to deal with the shortage over the longer term--or at least to increase technology literacy. The amendment calls for $20 million in annual funding for six years to Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The money would pay for equipment and staff to teach technology.