U.S. Bill seeks to double H-1B visas

By agencies   |   Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 08:00 Hrs
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WASHINGTON: A measure to double the number of H-1B skilled-worker temporary visas to 115,000 with an option of raising the cap 20 percent more each year has been introduced in the Immigration Bill.

The bill, now pending before the Congress, if passed, would open the U.S. doors to highly skilled immigrants for science, math, technology and engineering jobs from India.

The H-1B visa provisions were sought by Silicon Valley based technology companies who enjoy significant bipartisan support amid concern that the U.S. might lose its lead in technology, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The provision for highly skilled workers enjoys support in both parties in the Senate and in President George W. Bush's administration after a raft of high-profile studies have warned that the United States is not producing enough math and science students and is in danger of losing its global edge in innovation to India.

The new skilled immigration measures are part of a controversial 300-page bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, now being rewritten by the committee with the goal of reaching the Senate floor by the end of the month.

Other provisions in the bill include a new F-4 visa category for students pursuing advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. These students would be granted permanent residence if they find a job in their field and pay a $1,000 fee toward scholarships and training of U.S. workers.

Other proposals in the bill include streamlining labor certification rules for foreigners holding the desired advanced degrees from a U.S. university.

Immigrants with advanced degrees as well as those of 'extraordinary ability' and 'outstanding professors and researchers,' would also get an exemption from the cap on employment-based green cards and slots for permanent residence.

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