Enacted on November 29, 1990, the Immigration Act of 1990 was an amendment in United States immigration law that increased the number of legal immigrants that entered into the United States every year. In addition, the the amendment introduced a "lottery" system which assigned visas to immigrants randomly. The main reason for this was to change previous United States immigration law that prohibited the granting of visas to immigrants from certain countries. Other immigration law changes that were included in the act was a stipulation that prevented immigrants from entering the United States because of their homosexuality. Another restriction that was lifted as a result of the enacted United States immigration law was restrictions against immigrants that are HIV-positive.
The Immigration Act of 1990 is considered to be one of the most considerable changes to United States immigration law since 1965. The results of the act increased the number of legal immigrants from about 500,000 to about 700,000. Also, prior to the enforcement of the act, about 54,000 visas were available yearly to immigrants, but were limited to members of immediate families or people that were sponsored by their employers. The act raised the number of visas to 140,000 per year and each one of these visa claims were divided into separate categories.
The first group of legal immigrants that were selected for visas was "priority workers". They were considered aliens that possessed extraordinary ability, such as highly-skilled professors, researchers, and certain top executives and company managers. In order for these groups of people to be considered to have "extraordinary ability", they would require recorded and recognized acclaim within their field, such as sciences, arts, and even athletics.
The second category for visa grants was for aliens who were "advanced professionals and those of exceptional ability". This group included individuals that have received advanced degrees in their field of study and are considered to have "exceptional ability" in the fields of science or business.
What defines exceptional ability? Exceptional ability is a vague term and is not clearly identified. The Immigration Act of 1990 does state, however, that a degree or certification does not automatically grant a visa to an alien for exceptional ability. Those wishing to participate in this second category are required to also seek certification from through the U.S. Labor Department.
The third category for aliens seeking visas are for those considered to be skilled workers. This term signifies that he or she is able to perform labor that requires more than two years of preparation and training. Other workers are included in this category but are for labor occupations that are considered "unskilled". Before 1990, there were no restrictions placed on "unskilled workers", but the ceiling was established as 10,000 in the new act.
All of these aliens receiving visas must also be in occupations that are considered to have a shortage of U.S. qualified workers and are needed to fill the positions.
In addition, immigration law changes included the reduction of certain immigration categories, such as unmarried children of U.S. citizens, and married children of U.S. citizens.