This was a significant revision of existing immigration laws, which greatly increased the number of people who could legally immigrate to the United States, and introduced provisions to facilitate the entry of specific groups. The new law raised the ceiling on regular immigration (i.e. excluding refugees) to a flexible cap of 700,000 until 1995 and 675,000 thereafter. It also introduced the Diversity Visa lottery, which was designed for people who had been adversely affected by the preference system introduced through Hart-Celler Act of 1965. This allowed persons from any country that sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants over the past five years to enter a lottery for one of 40,000 diversity visas. Although initially intended to address a backlog of Irish, Italians and other Europeans, the lottery enabled a significant number of non-Europeans to immigrate. Applicants from African nations who lack the family relationships or skilled employment credentials to enter by the preference system have benefited significantly, receiving approximately 40% of diversity visas. The 1990 act also introduced the H-1B skilled worker visa program, allowing employers to apply to hire skilled workers using temporary visas. This helped increase the number of annual employment visas from 54,000 to 140,000. The Immigration Act of 1990 helped permit the entry of 20 million people to the United States over the next two decades, the largest number recorded in any 20 year period since the nation’s founding.
The Act also provided Temporary Protected Status so that asylum seekers could remain in the United States until conditions in their homelands improved.
Presently, most H-1B recipients are Asians whose employment sponsors are in the computer and IT industries.
Summary from Congress.gov
Conference report filed in House (10/26/1990)
Immigration Act of 1990 – Title I: Immigrants – Subtitle A: Worldwide and Per Country Levels – Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act) to set a permanent annual worldwide level of immigration, to begin in FY 1995, with a transition level for FY 1992 through 1994. Sets forth formulas to divide such worldwide level into worldwide levels for the following categories: (1) family-related immigrants; (2) employment-based immigrants; and (3) diversity immigrants. Excludes from such direct numerical limitations specified categories of special immigrants or aliens, including refugees.
Sets forth per country levels for the maximum portion (ceiling) of a country’s total number of immigrant visas which may be for family-sponsored and employment-based immigrants. Makes exceptions to such ceiling if additional visas are available, under specified conditions. Sets forth special rules for: (1) spouses and children of lawful permanent resident aliens; and (2) countries at such ceiling…
Subtitle B: Preference System – Part 1: Family-Sponsored Immigrants – Allocates annually by preference specified numbers of visas for family-sponsored immigrants, according to certain formulas, among the following groups of aliens: (1) unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; (2) spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent resident aliens; (3) married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and (4) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, if such citizens are at least 21 years of age.
Sets forth transition provisions for spouses and minor children of certain eligible legalized aliens. Provides for additional visa numbers for such spouses and children in each of FY 1992 through 1994, according to a specified formula.
Part 2: Employment-Based Immigrants – Allocates annually by preference specified numbers of visas for employment-based immigrants, according to certain formulas, among the following groups of aliens: (1) priority workers, i.e. those aliens with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, or certain multinational executives and managers; (2) members of professions holding advanced degrees, or those aliens with exceptional ability (in each case, requiring labor certification); (3) skilled workers with at least two years’ training or experience, professionals with baccalaureate degrees, or a limited number of unskilled shortage workers (in each case requiring labor certification); (4) certain special immigrants (of which allotted number not more than half may be religious workers); and (5) employment creation investors who invest specified minimum amounts (with adjustments for rural areas, high unemployment areas, and high employment areas) which will create at least a specified minimum number of new jobs (with such entrepreneurs and their spouses and children to be admitted on a two-year conditional basis, with procedures to deter immigration-related entrepreneurship fraud).
Provides for certain changes in the labor certification process under the Act.
Directs the Secretary of Labor to establish a labor market information pilot program for employment-based immigrants, effective for applications for certifications during FY 1992 through 1994. Requires the Secretary of Labor, under such pilot program, to determine labor shortages or surpluses in up to ten defined occupational classifications. Deems a labor certificate to have been issued if there is a labor shortage in an occupation. Permits such a certification even in an occupation with a labor surplus if the employer submits evidence of shortage for a specific job opportunity, based on extensive recruitment efforts.
Requires a report to specified congressional committees.
Directs the Secretary of Labor, in the labor certification process under the Act, to:
(1) require employers, upon application for such certification, to notify the appropriate employee bargaining representative, or, if there is no such representative, to post such notice conspicuously at the worksite; and
(2) allow any person to submit documentary evidence bearing on such application.
Sets forth transition provisions for employees of certain U.S. businesses operating in Hong Kong. Provides for specified additional numbers of visas during each of FY 1991 through 1993 for such employees (with derivative rules for their family members).
Part 3: Diversity Immigrants – Allocates annually (on a permanent basis beginning in FY 1995) specified numbers of visas for diversity immigrants, i.e. natives of foreign states from which immigration was lower than 50,000 over the preceding five years (weighting distribution of such visas in favor of countries in defined regions that are underrepresented in terms of relative regional populations). Limits the percentage of diversity visas for any single foreign state (treating Northern Ireland as a separate foreign state for such purposes). Requires, as a condition of eligibility for a diversity visa, that an alien have at least: (1) a high school education or its equivalent; or (2) two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience (within five years of the visa application date). Directs the Secretary of State to maintain information on the age, occupation, education level, and other relevant characteristics of immigrants issued such diversity visas.
Sets forth diversity transition provisions for immigrant visas for certain groups, as follows. Provides specified numbers of immigrant visas, in FY 1992 through 1994, for aliens who: (1) are natives of foreign states that are not contiguous to the United States and that are identified as adversely affected by the 1986 repeal of the national origins quota system; and (2) have a firm commitment of U.S. employment for at least one year (earmarking a portion of such visas for that foreign state which received the greatest number of visas under certain provisions for adversely affected states). Provides for immigrant visas in FY 1991 for aliens who have been notified of availability of NP-5 visas (i.e. are notified before a certain date of their selection for a visa as a native of an adversely affected state and are qualified but for certain numerical and fiscal year limitations). Provides for a specified number of immigrant visas, in FY 1991 through 1993, for displaced Tibetans and their relatives. (Requires such Tibetans to have been continuously residing in India or Nepal since before enactment of this Act, but gives preference to those who are not firmly resettled in India or Nepal or who are most likely to be resettled successfully in the United States.)
Title II: Nonimmigrants – Subtitle A: General and Permanent Provisions – …
Revises provisions for temporary workers and trainees (H nonimmigrants). Sets forth annual limitations on numbers in the following categories of H nonimmigrants: (1) temporary (redefined as specialty occupation) workers admitted on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience (H-1B category); and (2) temporary nonagricultural workers (H-2B category). Sets forth, also, an annual limitation on numbers in the following categories under the new P nonimmigrant visa established later in this Act: (1) athletes or entertainers for a specific performance (P-1); and (2) artists or entertainers for a culturally unique program (P-3). Limits the stay of H-1B temporary workers to six years. Removes the foreign residence requirement for H-1B temporary workers. Establishes a system which requires employers to file labor condition applications regarding recruitment, wages, and other conditions, for H-1B temporary workers. Limits H-3B category trainees to training programs that are not designed primarily to provide productive employment.
Subtitle B: Temporary or Limited Provisions – Directs the Attorney General, during FY 1992 through 1994, to grant off-campus work authorization for students who are F nonimmigrants, under specified conditions, including employer attestation to the educational institution and the Secretary of Labor. Directs the INS Commissioner to report to the Congress by April 1, 1994, on the impact of such work authorization program on prevailing wages of workers and whether such program should be extended.
Establishes a special education exchange visitor program. Directs the Attorney General to provide for the admission of nonimmigrants as participants in such training program, providing for practical training experience in education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Limits the number of such nonimmigrants to not more than 50 in any fiscal year, and the admission period to not more than 18 months.
Title VIII: Education and Training – Directs the Secretary of Labor to provide for grants to States to provide educational assistance and training for U.S. workers. Allocates such grant funds among the States according to a formula, jointly established by the Secretaries of Labor and of Education, that considers the locations of: (1) foreign workers admitted to the United States; (2) individuals in the United States requiring and desiring such assistance; and (3) unemployed and underemployed U.S. workers. Provides for disbursement of, and applications for, such funds to the States. Limits State administrative expenses and Federal overhead. Directs the Secretary of Labor to report annually to the Congress on such grants.