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Rediff.com  » Business » US Senate panel votes for hike in H-1B visas

US Senate panel votes for hike in H-1B visas

March 29, 2006 12:51 IST

The Senate Judiciary Committee of the United States has voted to significantly increase the number of H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers as part of a controversial Immigration Bill that faces a tough fight in the Congress before it becomes law.

This measure to double the number of temporary visas to H-1B skilled-workers to 115,000 -- with an option of raising the cap 20 per cent more each year -- was buried in the Senate's giant 300-page Immigration Bill that got approved 12-6 on Tuesday.

The Bill, once adopted by the Senate and the Congress, would open the country's doors to highly skilled immigrants for science, mathematics, technology and engineering jobs from India, China and other nations.

The H1-B visa provisions were incorporated into the immigration legislation at the insistence of tech companies in the Silicon Valley and enjoy significant bipartisan support amid concerns that the United States might lose its edge in technology.

Silicon Valley high-tech companies are strongly backing the proposed increase in H-1B visas, which currently are capped at 65,000 a year, according to the California-based Mercury News.

Various exemptions in the programme for certain types of jobs, such as those with non-profit organisations, would mean that around 220,000 foreigners a year now actually receive the six-year visas.

The provision for highly skilled workers was introduced after high-profile studies warned that the United States was not producing enough mathematics and science students and was in danger of losing its global edge in innovation to India and China.

The proposal on H-1B visas, as approved by the committee, would increase the annual cap of H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 beginning in 2007 while keeping all those existing exemptions. It effectively would boost the number of H-1B visas to nearly 300,000 a year.

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