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10/23/2007
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House Democrats Pushing To Revisit H-1B Visa, Green Card Reform This Year

Members of the New Democrat Coalition are joining the tech industry in calling for increasing the supply of foreign-born workers in the United States.

Pressure is mounting on Congress -- now from within -- to pass H-1B visa and green card reform this year.

In a letter sent yesterday to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other House committee leaders, a group of 16 Democrats in Congress requested that "the House take action this year to resolve the immediate talent crisis that is facing U.S. employers."

The letter was signed by 16 U.S. representatives who are part of the New Democrat Coalition, a 59-member group of Democratic members of Congress who describe themselves as "moderate, pro-growth," and interested in "modernizing" the Democratic Party and the country.

The group says Congress "must act to alleviate the talent crisis before we adjourn this year."

Among the reforms being urged are aligning the supply of H-1B visas and employment-based green cards "with the needs of U.S. employers" and modernizing student visa programs. H-1B is the most common visa used by U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign-born technology workers.

Currently, the annual cap on H-1B visas sits at 85,000, including 20,000 exemptions that are earmarked for foreign students who receive degrees from U.S. schools.

However, over the last few years, the supply of visas has been running out quickly while demand by employers increases. This year, the U.S. government received in two days nearly twice as many applications for H-1B visas than can be granted for fiscal 2008, which started Oct. 1.

The hope by employers for an increase in the number of H-1B visas that can be issued this fiscal year was crushed in the spring when Congress' comprehensive immigration reform bill died. However, in recent months, pressure has been growing on Congress to revisit tech-industry-related immigration issues as standalone legislation.

Besides the correspondence sent to House leaders by the New Democrat Coalition, in recent weeks various tech lobbying groups, including Compete America, IEEE-USA, and the Semiconductor Industry Association, have also been pressuring House and Senate leaders to readdress various visa and green card reforms.

New Democrat Coalition members signing the letter are Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), Adam Smith (Wash.), Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), Artur Davis (Ala.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Rick Larsen (Wash.), Dennis Moore (Kan.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Jim Moran (Va.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Susan Davis (Calif.), Lois Capps (Calif.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Christopher Carney (Pa.), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), and David Wu (Ore.).

However, despite the letter to Speaker Pelosi and other House leaders, new debate about raising the cap on H-1B visas or green card reforms isn't likely to be penciled in any time soon in the House, says a government source, unless the Senate makes the move first to revisit those issues.

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