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U.S. Senate hikes up foreign workers fee

Posted: 31 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:European Union? H-1B? green card?

Following the European Union's move to open its doors for skilled workers, the U.S. Senate has voted to approve a $3,500 fee increase for U.S. companies bringing them to America.

The Senate approved the measure last week, the same day the European Union announced a new "Blue Card" plan to issue temporary work visas to well educated foreign professionals.

Software & Information Industry Association president Ken Wasch said the U.S. action was "gravely disconcerting."

"With the drastic shortage of H-1B visas for temporary high-skilled workers and the backlog of employment-based green cards, the U.S. is already competing in the global talent competition with its hands tied behind its back," he said in a prepared statement. "This additional fee to hire specialized talentwhich often comes out of American universitiessends yet another signal that our nation is not serious about being a world leader in technology and innovation."

The EU plan, which must gain support from all member states, would make it easier for people with visas in one to three months. The process often takes several years in the United States.

Wasch said Congress should match the European Union's moves and ensure that American companies can compete for the best and brightest workers around the world. "Specifically, Congress should act expeditiously to increase the number of temporary H-1B visas for highly-skilled workers and provide long-overdue relief for the backlog of EB Green Cards," he said.

Several tech industry giants and associations also want Congress to raise caps on H-1B visas. They claim that they need foreign talent to cope with a shortage of Americans with advanced level degrees in science and technologies.

The fee increase has not been approved by the House and may not make it into law. The money is slated to fund annual scholarships for students in math, science, engineering and computer science.

- K.C. Jones

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