Less than a day after Bill Gates lobbied Congress for H-1B increases, two representatives follow suit.
Gates' visit to Washington
to lobby lawmakers for improved access to
foreign workers March 12 appears to have gotten through to at least two
Congressmen, who have each proposed significant H-1B increases.
Late the day of Gates' speech, a House Democrat on the Committee on Science
and Technology, the one which Gates had addressed, introduced a bill that would
double the number of H-1B visas available beginning with the batch to be made
available April 1 for the 2009 fiscal year.
The Innovation Employment Act, proposed by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.),
would increase the cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 130,000 each year. It would
also remove the 20,000 cap entirely on H-1B applications from foreign graduate
students attending U.S.
colleges and focusing their studies on STEM
(science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Gifford's bill includes a stipulation that if the 130,000 cap is reached in
the 2009 fiscal year, the number would be increased again for the 2010 fiscal
year, this time to 180,000, nearly tripling the current level.
The SUSTAIN (Strengthening U.S. Technology and Innovation Now) Act, proposed
March 13, went a step further; Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a ranking
member of the House Judiciary Committee, proposed raising the H-1B visa cap to
195,000 for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the highest level since the peak in 2001-2003.
Both bills stand out from earlier attempted H-1B increases by their
aggressiveness. While a 2007 effort, the
failed Immigration Reform Bill,
would have added 50,000 visas annually,
these bills would, respectively, double and triple the limit.
Opponents to these measures argue that an increase in H-1B visas would put U.S.
workers out of jobs. During his testimony, however, Bill Gates insisted that
just the opposite is true: For every H-1B hire Microsoft makes, he said, the
company adds an average of four additional employees to support that worker in
"Other nations are benefiting from our misguided policies," Gates
told the House Committee on Science and Technology.
"They are revising
their immigration policies to attract highly talented students and
professionals who would otherwise study, live and work in the United
States for at least part of their
The H-1B debate is expected to go into overdrive in
the coming weeks, as April 1 is the first day that the supply of 65,000 H-1B
visas will be available for the 2009 fiscal year. The 2008 supply of H-1B visas was tapped out the first day
the visas became
available and the
2007 supply ran out in two months.