10:33 AM

H-1B Visa Exemption Not Ready For Prime Time

Perhaps America no longer is the land of opportunity for many highly skilled foreigner workers.

Perhaps America no longer is the land of opportunity for many highly skilled foreigner workers.In May, the government rewrote regulations governing H-1B visas, the work permits that let foreign nationals work in the United States for up to three years in highly skilled jobs, such as computer programming. The new rule exempts 20,000 positions annually from the 65,000 H-1B visa cap if the foreigners winning the exempt visas earned graduate degrees at U.S. institutions. In effect, the new rule allows up to 85,000 H-1B visas a year.

When the government announced the new rule, experts predicted the 20,000 exempt visas for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, would be gobbled up quickly. That didn't happen. Earlier this week, the government said employers sought just over 8,000 exempt visas.

As the global economy grows, especially in places like India and China, highly skilled professionals around the globe might see better career opportunities by staying home or locating elsewhere in the world than in the United States.

Whether or not you agree with President Bush's policies, there's little doubt that a significant number of foreigners find the United States an uninviting place to live and work. Conceivably that's one reason why only four in 10 of the available exempt H-1B visa are being sought.

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