Atlanta companies that want to hire foreign professionals should be aware that it may soon become far more difficult to bring such workers into the U.S.

“Get your H-1B visas now,” immigration attorney Robert Banta of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy law firm told GlobalFax in an interview last week.

Banta and other lawyers from this national law firm will take part in a Business Immigration Law Conference, Wednesday, Nov. 17. Also taking part in the conference will be representatives from Coca-Cola Co., iXL Inc., and Fujitsu Network Communications. Panelists will discuss alternatives for employment related immigration.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has  an excess of 10,000 to 20,000 of H-1B visas, temporary work visas granted for people in “specialty occupations” including information technology workers, higher education professionals and foreign students, according to Mr. Banta.

This year’s cap of 115,000 was reached about five months before the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, and the spillover of visas has caused Congress to take retroactive measures.

While the cap for 2000 remains at 115,000, the cap for 2001 will be lowered to 107,000 and in 2002 only 65,000 H-1B visas will be issued. More requirements and an $500 filing fee for visa applications will accompany the cap decrease.

Alternative visas may be available, Mr. Banta said, for employees and employers who are nationals of treaty countries. The E-1 Treaty Trader visa and E-2 Treaty Investor visa are accessible to nationals of most industrialized countries, but must meet other strict criteria as well.

An added benefit to using the E-1 treaty visas is that they are available in third countries and they do not have to be applied for in the U.S. or in the employee’s country. Many applicants go to Mexican border towns, said Mr. Banta, to get the visas.

The conference on Nov. 17 will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Colony Square Hotel. To register for the conference contact Janet Jones by telephone at (404) 249-1211, by fax at (404) 249-9291, or by E-mail at

Robert Banta may be reached at (404) 249-1200 or by E-mail at