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IT companies seek to end per-country visa caps

A number of information technology companies, including Microsoft, Google, Intel, Cisco and Oracle, are urging the United States Senate to pass a law that would put an end to the current per-country limits on employment-based immigration. Professionals with highly-valued skills sometimes must spend years or even a decade waiting for a visa simply because they were born in a particular country, such as India or China.

The legislation, known as the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, easily passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming 389-15 vote last fall, but has been stalled in the Senate since then. The law, if enacted, would end all discrimination against applicants for employment-based visas on the basis of national origin. It would grant issuance of such green cards on a first-come, first served basis, while doing nothing to raise the current annual limit of 140,000 visas.

Under the current system, applicants granted employment-based visas from any one country are limited to a maximum of 7 percent of the visas issued that year. This results in an effective penalty against applicants from countries with large populations like India, simply because there may be more highly skilled people available there than from other countries like Iceland or Switzerland.

Microsoft has also taken the progressive stance of advocating that a current annual limit of 65,000 H-1B visas for technology workers from other countries should be expanded. Another 20,000 such visas are currently issued each year to foreign students after they graduate from United States universities. H-1B visas currently limit foreign workers to staying at the same company in the United States, denying them the ability to switch jobs.

Source: Information Week, "Microsoft Presses: More Green Cards For India IT," Paul McDougall, April 4, 2012

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