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Legislation Approved To Raise Cap On H1B Visa Limits, Awaits Clinton s Signature

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WASHINGTON--President Clinton is expected to sign legislation this month to raise the number of temporary work visas available to highly skilled foreign workers employed by US companies.

The measure, approved by Congress in late September, increases to 115,000 the number of H1B visas that may be issued in a year through 2000. The bill reduces the cap to 107,500 in 2001 and returns it to the current limit of 65,000 in 2002.

But immigration attorney Lawrence Bastone of Cambridge, Mass., whose clientele includes genomics and life sciences companies, argued that increasing the number of visas available is not enough.

He said the government should "unencumber" the process of securing an H1B visa.

The new legislation requires employers to show that a qualified US candidate was not available for a position being filled by an H1B visa applicant and prohibits employers who use H1B visas from laying off US workers in similar job categories for six months.

According to the business community, thousands of high-tech and scientific jobs have gone unfilled since this year's limit of 65,000 was reached in May. In addition to private-sector employers, universities will also benefit from the new law.

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