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H1-B visas could double under Senate plan: Report

Last Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 13:21

Washington: The number of H-1B visas issued by the US could double under a proposed Senate immigration plan which would also remove the cap on the green card, a move likely to benefit Indian-American technology professionals but not the Indian companies.

The Senate immigration plan would dramatically increase the number of high-skilled foreign workers allowed into the country and give permanent legal status to an unlimited number of students who earn graduate degrees from US universities in science, technology, engineering or math, Washington Post reported quoting people familiar with the negotiations.

The plan, if passed by both the chambers of the US Congress - House of Representatives and the Senate - would meet one of the major demands of top American technology companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft who argue that they are not able to find enough qualified workers in the US.

Given that India has the maximum qualified such professionals in the world, Indian-American technology professionals are likely to benefit from this.

But Indian companies are unlikely to benefit from this immigration reform, if some of the legislations introduced in the Congress are passed, including the one which was introduced by Senator Chick Grassley this week.

The Grassley resolution among other things ensures that an H-1B application filed by an employer that employs 50 or more US workers will not be accepted unless the employer attests that less than 50 percent of the employer's workforces are H-1B and L visa holders.

"The agreement would be a major victory for the tech industry, which has backed an intense lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill in recent months arguing that Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other companies are having trouble finding qualified workers because of visa limits," the daily said.

"The expansion of the visas, known as H1Bs, is one element of talks among a bipartisan group of eight senators, whose legislation is expected to serve as the basis for a deal between Congress and the White House to retool the immigration system.

"The number of visas available would approximately double from the current limit of 65,000 per year," The Washington Post said.

According to the daily Senator Richard Durbin, a member of the bipartisan immigration working group, has been trying to persuade the negotiators to accept two key restrictions on the visas, according to people familiar with the talks.

One would prevent certain firms that rely heavily on H1B visas from hiring more workers under the program, and the other would require companies to make a "good faith" effort, subject to federal oversight, to recruit American workers, it added.

"But instead, the group has tentatively agreed to impose stiff fees on some outsourcing companies that hire H1B workers and to require modest measures to encourage the hiring of Americans, such as advertising the jobs, but with limited federal oversight," The Post said.

The H1B programme was created in 1990 to attract high-skilled workers from around the world, but it has become a way for outsourcing firms to bring lower-paid employees to the United States.

Meanwhile, joining the growing debate on immigration, a top American organisation has asked lawmakers to expand H-1B visas for US-trained foreign physicians.

Given the shortage of doctors in rural areas of the country, where American physicians are reluctant to serve, the Federation of American Hospitals in a letter to top four US Senators said that the H-1B visas for those foreign doctors working in the rural areas be exempted from the Congressional cap.


First Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 10:21
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