H-1B Increase Quietly Passes First Hurdle

The U.S. Senate passes the controversial immigration reform bill, which includes a provision to raise the H-1B visa cap to 115,000 from 65,000.

In the lull before the long holiday weekend, the U.S. Senate passed the immigration reform bill on May 25, which includes a controversial provision to raise the H-1B visa cap to 115,000 from 65,000.

Bill Gates, Microsofts chairman and chief software architect and long a proponent of an uncapped H-1B program, arguing that limits must be lifted to keep the United States globally competitive, praised the Senate in a statement.

"By passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation today that makes prudent adjustments to the annual H-1B visa and green card caps for high skilled employees, the U.S. Senate has taken a critical step forward in its important work to ensure that our nation remains the global leader in technology innovation," said Gates.

Opponents of the H-1B program, who view it as flawed, diluting the IT professional pool and rife with abuse by companies not paying visa holders equal wages, immediately slammed the bills progress.

"We dont understand why the Senate wants to expand a program that numerous government reports have found leaves U.S. and foreign workers open to exploitation. Fraud, abuse and misuse of the visas [are] rampant. The program should be fixed before it is expanded," said Ralph Wyndrum Jr., president of IEEE-USA, an organizational unit within the IEEE, in a statement.

The H-1B visa program launched in 1990, allowing skilled foreigners to work in the United States for up to six years. In response to the soaring tech market of the late 1990s, the number of available H-1B visas was temporarily increased to 195,000 by Congress for the 2001-2003 fiscal years, reverting to 65,000 in 2004.

In August 2005, the number of applications for H-1B visas reached its limit almost two months before the 2006 federal fiscal year began.

The House of Representatives is expected to oppose the immigration bill and accompanying allotted H-1B visa increase.


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