RealTime IT News

Game Over: Next Year's H1-B Visas Already Gone

Six weeks before the 2006 federal budget year even begins, the allotment of H-1B visas for next year is already exhausted. The visas are limited to workers with graduate degrees from U.S. universities and are a favorite with U.S. technology firms.

The early run on the visas that allow foreign nationals with advanced degrees in science, engineering and technology to work in the United States is likely to bring another demand by the Silicon Valley to increase the number of H1-B workers.

"Talent does not recognize geographic borders or country of origin. If we want to be competitive on the world stage, we need to raise the H-1B cap," Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) said in a statement. "Maintaining a cap that is so low that it is met before the year even begins makes no sense; it only helps our foreign competitors."

Under current law the program is capped at 65,000, down from 195,000 in FY 2003. The 2005 cap was reached on Oct. 1, 2004 -- the first day of the federal government's new fiscal year. Under pressure from the technology industry, Congress added another 20,000 to the 2005 allotment in November of last year.

"We believe a significant increase is required to meet the need for specialized skills and keep companies -- and as a result jobs for U.S. workers -- growing at a steady pace," Miller said.

Lynn Shotwell, executive director of the American Council on International Personnel, praised Congress for the extra allocation last year, but emphasized it didn't solve any long term problems.

"That was crisis control and we are deeply appreciative, but [the cap announcement]… illustrates that a more fundamental problem exists," Lynn said in a statement. "We're nearly two months away from the start of the fiscal year and we've hit the general H-1B cap. Every indication is we will use up all the 20,000 exemptions by the end of the fall."

In a statement issued by Compete America, a coalition of more than 200 corporations, universities, research institutions and trade associations, Sandy Boyd of the National Association of Manufacturers said the real problem is the lack of trained U.S. workers.

"We need to do more as a nation to encourage American students to pursue degrees in math, science, engineering and technology disciplines," she said. "America has a long tradition of growing its own talent while welcoming it from across the globe. Government policy needs to reflect that tradition."