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US electronics industry backs calls for H-1B visa increase

Posted: 23 Apr 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EIA H-1B visa? H-1B employment visa? US visa reform?

The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) announced last week it is backing a U.S. congressional resurgence in H-1B and employment visa reform.

The EIA issued a statement that it is backing U.S. Rep. John Shadegg in an attempt to raise visa caps. Shadegg introduced his bill a day earlier, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn introduced a matching bill the previous week. The alliance described the legislation as "crucial" for U.S. information and communications technology companies, which rely on foreign professionals.

"American companies need more hands and more minds to succeed in the global marketplace," Storme Street, EIA's vice president of government relations, said in a prepared statement. "These visa programs have a proven track record of enabling businesses to innovate, contribute to the economy and, ultimately, create more U.S. jobs."

The "Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership," or SKIL bill would raise the limits on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 and allow for an increase of 20 percent after the cap is reached. It provides an exemption for professionals with master's or higher degrees from U.S. universities and those with certification in medical specialties. It would apply the 20,000 cap exemption to those with a master's degree or higher from foreign institutions, not just those in the United States.

The legislation would raise the ceiling on employment-based visas from 140,000 to 290,000 allow U.S. companies to "recapture" and carry forward unused visas from 2001 to 2005, the EIA noted. It would exempt several groups from the employment-based cap, including those with advanced science, technology, engineering or math degrees who have worked in the U.S. for three years. It would exempt people in "shortage occupations" identified by the Secretary of Labor, as well as children and spouses of professionals holding employment-based visas.

The EIA said the SKIL bill would also help the U.S. IT industry by extending employment for professionals in training, eliminating the need for H-1B visas in many cases. The bill also creates a new visa category (F-1) for students of science, technology, engineering and math, streamline the petitioning process for compliant visiting professionals, and allow domestic renewal.

EIA is also backing U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who introduced a bill to make more visas available this year. Hagel introduced the bill last week when the United States reached its 65,000 limit on the same day the H-1B visa program opened.

- K.C. Jones

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