When Congress created the H-1B visa program 20 years ago this month, it sent the American IT industry into uncharted territory from which it has yet to emerge.
The U.S. had an H-1 visa for foreign nationals with "distinguished merit and ability" prior to 1990, but that year, in response to warnings of an emerging "skills gap" or "skills mismatch" among U.S. engineering and technology professionals, Congress broadened the scope of the visa. The H-1B incorporated specialty occupations—including such IT roles as programming, systems analysis, and network and systems support—with a minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree.
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