Tech Industry Lobbies for Looser Visa Policies

A group of trade association presidents makes the business case for encouraging foreign students, workers and customers.

As Congress debates immigration reform, largely with an eye to protecting national security, the tech industry is lobbying to prevent companies from being left at a disadvantage by entry restrictions on foreign workers and foreign customers.

The presidents of 10 of the industrys largest trade associations called on President Bush to take action where possible and to work with Congress where legislation is needed to ensure that tech companies have access to foreign workers and customers.

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The industry wants to make it faster, easier and less expensive for foreign employees of tech companies to enter the country. The groups are asking for new visa policies that would allow potential customers to travel to the United States without long delays or unnecessary burdens.

"Foreign visitors are often forced to go through an unnecessarily time-consuming and burdensome process for obtaining visas," the association presidents said in a March 24 letter to Bush. "Many prominent potential customers choose not to visit the United States because of this, costing our workers jobs, and our economy growth."

The groups also want to make sure that talented researchers and students overseas continue to view the United States as an attractive place to study. In a similar vein, they are pushing for visa reform for high-skilled workers.

"Wait times for employment-based green cards reach five years and longer for nationals of India and China. Without reform, American competitiveness will suffer," they said in the letter. "Other countries will gain from the international talent that our employers cannot hire or retain, and American employers will be forced to move their functions to places where they can find the workers."

The letter was signed by the presidents of the American Electronics Association, Business Software Alliance, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Consumer Electronics Association, Electronic Industries Alliance, Information Technology Association of America, Semiconductor Industry Association, Software and Information Industry Association, Technology CEO Council and Telecommunications Industry Association.

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