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.
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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.