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11/15/2006
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Tech Industry to Congress: Give Us More H-1Bs Or We'll Outsource

Compete America sent a letter to members of Congress urging lawmakers to raise limits on skilled worker visas before the adjournment of the current session.

A refusal by Congress to raise the limit on the number of skilled foreign workers allowed into the United States each year would increase the number of American tech jobs lost to low-cost countries like India and China, a spokesman for a technology industry lobby group backed by Intel, Microsoft, and other computer giants said Wednesday.

"Outsourcing is the perfect argument for increasing the numbers. If companies say they can't find the right people for the right jobs here in the U.S., they're going to send them overseas," the Compete America spokesman said.

On Monday, the group sent a letter to members of Congress urging the lawmakers to raise limits on skilled worker visas before the adjournment of the current session. The number of such visas, or H-1Bs, issued annually is currently capped by law at 85,000, including 20,000 for foreign workers with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.

A bill introduced in the Senate would raise the H-1B level to 115,000, but no vote is currently scheduled on the issue. Control of Congress in 2007 will fall to the Democrats, who many believe will be more reluctant than Republicans to raise skilled immigration levels because of opposition from labor groups.

In its letter to Congress, Compete America, which also counts Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems among its members, argued that limits on tech worker visas and green cards are hampering the ability of U.S. companies to compete against foreign rivals.

The group said the caps need to be lifted "to ensure that U.S. businesses and universities have continued access to necessary talent, and for the U.S. to remain the world's innovation leader. We urge Congress to pass the provisions that would relieve the drastic H-1B and [employment-based] green card problems before adjournment."

A number of employee and professional organizations are publicly opposed to increases in H-1B visa allotments, arguing that such a move would cost thousands of U.S. tech workers their jobs. The current Senate bill "will destroy America's economic future as well as its technological future," says a statement on a Web site operated by the Programmer's Guild, which represents computer industry workers.

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