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More H-1B Visas? There May Be Good News For Professional Workers

by Root Law Group

As Congress fights over details for comprehensive immigration reform, the visa cap for H-1B professional workers was reach on October 1st, the first day CIS started accepting filings. The congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas is primarily used for foreign-born technology professionals to work in the United States.

USCIS has determined that there are still H-1B visas available for advanced degree holders with a Masters Degree or higher. Although they are rapidly approaching the cap, and will surely exhaust the 20,000 available visas prior to the start of the 2008 fiscal year which starts on October 1, 2007.

However, employers like Microsoft and Oracle who seek H-1B visas on behalf of scientists, engineers, computer programmers and other workers with theoretical or technical expertise have as much as one-third of their employees here on work visas or as legal permanent residents. Compete America, a coalition that includes Microsoft, chip maker Intel Corp., business software company Oracle Corp. and others, voiced its opposition to the visa cap in a statement, "Our broken visa policies for highly educated foreign professionals are not only counterproductive, they are anticompetitive and detrimental to America's long-term economic competitiveness," said Robert Hoffman, an Oracle vice president and co-chairman of Compete America.

H-1B visa cap increase sought in immigration bill

A wide-ranging immigration-reform bill now being debated by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee would, if passed and signed into law, increase the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and ease the permanent residency process for some foreign nationals with advanced degrees. If the measure fails, H-1B proponents will try to get an increase added to some other bill, said Sandra Boyd, chairwoman of Compete America, a Washington-based group of businesses, industry groups and universities supporting a visa-cap increase, as well as green-card reforms that could speed up the permanent residency process. "We will continue to press on these issues," said Boyd.

Technology companies like Microsoft for the last couple of years have been lobbying hard for Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas the nation issues annually. However, the chorus is getting louder right now due to the rapidly exhausted H-1B quota this year. President Bush also supports an increase in the number of H-1B visas according to what he told a group of DuPont workers earlier this week. It's not the first time that he has called for upping the limit for such visas, but so far his efforts have not been successful. Congress is expected to consider legislation that would raise the cap above the current 65,000, but it is not clear whether its chances will be any better in the Democratic-controlled chambers this year.

As well, the "SKIL Bill", short for "Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership Act of 2006" that was proposed last year is targeted at increasing legal immigration of scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematics workers into the United States by increasing the quotas of the H-1B visa, eliminating green card caps for certain advanced degree holders, and streamlining the processing of employment-based green cards. Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress support the bill, which is perceived as a way to attract talent and keep the U.S. competitive with fast growing economies such as China and India.

The Skil Bill is now being pushed again in Congress and if approved may result in an increase in the annual H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000. Additionally, it may streamline Green Card Processing by establishing a pre-certification procedure that is designed to eliminate duplicate documentation of the employer that is common to multiple petitions. It also provides employers with an option to expedited processing of such visa petitions.

This legislation seeks to accomplish two goals---to address our short-term talent shortage while at the same time ensuring that viable long-term solutions such as education and job training eliminate the future need to expand the H-1B program.

About The Author

Root Law Group is an exclusive Immigration Law firm that specializes in assisting non United States citizens in obtaining lawful status in the United States. Phone: 1- (888)-Root-Law (766-8529)

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.