Paper Clarifies Requirements for Foreign Information Technology Workers

Association says foreign IT workers are critical to U.S. economy but immigration program needs improvement

by / August 7, 2003

ARLINGTON, VA -- The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) treleased a new white paper on the L-1 business immigration visa, focusing on the administration of visas for foreign workers brought to the U.S. to work on information technology projects.

"The L-1 program is critically important to U.S. multinational information technology firms as they compete globally," said ITAA president Harris N. Miller. "However, as with any complex immigration program, we see some possible areas of improvement in its administration by the departments of State and Homeland Security to insure that legitimate users have access and to prevent possible abuses. Improved administration, not abolition or major modification, is the way to deal with concerns that have been expressed about the L-1 program."

"Our paper sets forth some suggestions on how to clarify its administration. The government must clarify the definition of 'specialized knowledge,' and use that to determine whether applicants qualify," Miller continued.

"We offer examples of what does and does not constitute 'specialized knowledge' in the IT field. We want to work with the government officials who run the L-1 program to ease its use for legitimate employers and eliminate its use for workers who are not properly qualified," Miller added.

The paper gives specific examples from the IT industry of what does and does not qualify as specialized knowledge. Knowledge of software programs, programming languages such as COBOL or Java, and tools that are widely known does not, in most cases, by itself qualify as "specialized knowledge," though the worker may be eligible to enter the U.S. under other immigration categories. Advanced knowledge of an employer's special process or methodology that is not generally held throughout the industry could be considered specialized knowledge and would be an acceptable case for applying for an L-1 visa.

The ITAA white paper was distributed to key members of Congress and staff in advance of a recent Senate Subcommittee on Immigration hearing on the topic. It is also being shared with Administration officials.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) provides global public policy, business networking, and national leadership to promote the continued rapid growth of the IT industry. ITAA consists of over 400 corporate members throughout the U.S., and a global network of 50 countries' IT associations