BIO Urges President To Sign H-1B Visa Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 4, 2000) The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today urged President Clinton to sign the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act passed by Congress yesterday.

The legislation increases the annual limit on U.S. work visas (H-1B) for skilled professionals to 195,000 for the next three years and exempts from the cap university and related research faculty employees. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.). A similar bill was submitted in the House by David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

The biotechnology industry annually employs 15,000 of these skilled professionals, BIO President Carl B. Feldbaum said. That’s about 10 percent of the total U.S. biotech work force, and the vast majority of these H-1B visa holders in our industry received their advanced degrees from U.S. schools. Because of the constant shortage of specialized technical workers, these employees are essential for the continued success and competitiveness of the U.S. biotech industry.

This legislation is critical to the continued health of oureconomy. It helps not only the biotech industry, but all other high-tech industries. In 1999, H-1B visa applications totaled 700,000 across all fields. In March, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service stopped accepting new applications for this year.

We appreciate the Congress’ support of this legislation, Feldbaum said, and we urge President Clinton to sign it into law. BIO also encourages Congress next year to consider enacting a permanent exemption for master’s degree and Ph.D graduates from U.S. schools.

BIO represents more than 920 companies, academic institutions and state biotech centers in all 50 U.S. states and 27 other nations. BIO members are involved in research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.