Industry pushes for more H-1b visas

With the April 1 H-1b visa application deadline approaching, information technology companies are urging Congress to authorize a larger number of visas to meet demand.

The Compete America coalition, which includes many IT companies such as Boeing Co., Hewlett-Packard Corp. and Microsoft Corp., asked lawmakers to raise the 65,000 annual cap on H-1b visas for highly skilled foreign workers.

Many of the H-1b visas are granted to IT workers. Industry executives say increasing the number of available visas would stimulate the economy and improve competitiveness. On the other hand, many IT workers in the United States oppose H-1b visa expansion because they are worried about depressed wages.

The deadline for employers to apply for an H-1b visa on behalf of a foreign worker is April 1. In recent years, demand has exceeded supply.

"In just a few short weeks, the U.S. government will begin to accept applications for H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2009. As was the case last year, not only is the annual supply of H-1B visas virtually assured to be exhausted on the very first day applications are accepted, half of those applying will lose out in the visa lottery, denying U.S. employers access to tens of thousands of highly skilled and badly needed professionals who could contribute to economic growth and job creation in this country," Robert Hoffman, chairman of Compete America, said in a news release.

"Today's arbitrary and unrealistic limits on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards sends the message that America's doors are closed and that these highly-skilled individuals, many of whom have been educated in U.S. universities, should look for opportunity elsewhere," Hoffman wrote.

Hoffman urged the congressional leaders to consider broad immigration reforms, including H-1b visa expansion, rather than focusing on enforcement-only immigration legislation.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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