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5/5/2006
05:15 PM
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Time To Doff H-1B Cap?

With Congress bogged down debating far-reaching immigration reform, a new bill proposes separating the issue of whether to raise the annual limit on H-1B visas given to foreign technologists and other professionals.

The current annual cap is 65,000, with another 20,000 for people with advanced degrees earned in the United States. The new Securing Knowledge, Innovation, and Leadership legislation, dubbed the Skil Bill, proposes raising the ceiling to 115,000, with options to increase the cap annually by 20% based on the needs of employers. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would exempt from the annual H-1B cap any professional with a postgraduate degree from an accredited U.S. university. It also proposes letting employers pay an extra fee to expedite the processing of an immigrant petition. Some U.S. IT pros claim H-1B workers take jobs and lower wages.

If the ceiling for H-1B visas were raised, business demand for those individuals would be "off the charts," says VP Kevin Knaul of IT staffing firm Hudson, which employs about 80 H-1B techies. The bill isn't a lock, though. It may be separated from the reform bill, but controversy will stick with it.

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