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H-1B is a U.S. Immigration Service visa classification that permits aliens to be employed in the United States up to six years in a specialty occupation, including occupations in information technology. For FY 2004, the U.S. has a cap of 65,000 such visas. In FY 2001, 2002, and 2003, the cap was temporarily increased to 195,000. To be eligible for an H-1B visa, an alien must have a sponsoring employer. Fields in which specialty occupations exist for which H-1B visas have been permitted include but are not limited to architecture, engineering, medicine and health, accounting, and the arts, as well as information technology.
An employer is required to state or demonstrate that a U.S. worker will not be displaced by the H-1B applicant. In addition to the H-1B workers, up to 20,000 non-U.S. residents who earn a master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher learning will also be allowed temporary work visas. Another visa category, L-1, allows the temporary employment of managers or executives.
In general, business favors the H-1B and L-1 visas while labor and other organizations such as the IEEE oppose them or at least oppose the current numbers that are allowed.