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High-tech businesses frustrated by H1B limits

Dan Grech Apr 3, 2007

High-tech businesses frustrated by H1B limits

Dan Grech Apr 3, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: Rumors of a deal on immigration reform have been making the rounds in the capital lately. There’s nothing official in the headlines today. But immigration iss still in the news. The government has stopped accepting applications for a specific — and a highly sought-after — kind of work visa.

They’re called H1Bs, and they’re meant for skilled foreigners. Which has usually meant high-tech workers. The legal limit is 65,000 of ’em a year. By midday today, 150,000 applications had been received.

It might help to mention here that the application period began yesterday. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: Last year, it took two months to run out of H1B visas for high-skilled workers.

This year, just two days. The immigration processing centers in Vermont and California were overwhelmed by the 150,000 applications.

SUSAN COHEN: Shocking number. I mean, it’s unprecedented.

That’s immigration attorney Susan Cohen with the firm Mintz Levin in Boston.She says it’ll be another year before new applications will be accepted — for a start date of October 2008.

COHEN: That’s just not viable. Business has to get done now. If there was ever a case to be made that we need more visa numbers, it was just made today.

H1B visas are used by U.S. companies to fill engineering, computer programming and other technology jobs. The companies say there aren’t enough U.S. workers to fill these jobs, forcing them to recruit overseas.

Immigration attorney Nancy-Jo Merritt is with Fennemore Craig in Phoenix.She wrote an e-mail this afternoon telling her clients the visa cap has already been hit. Her clients responded with:

NANCY-JO MERRITT: Panic and frustration and annoyance. That’s why I tell them, there’s nothing I can do. Contact your Congressional representative. Let them know that this is simply unreal.

High-tech companies like Oracle, Cisco and Microsoft rely on foreign workers to fill their ranks.

Robert Hoffman’s a vice president at Oracle.

ROBERT HOFFMAN: It’s absurd to recruit the world’s top talent to train in our world-leading universities, hand them a diploma and then tell them that there is no place for them in our economy.

Immigration officials say they’ll hold a lottery to pick from the visa applications they’ve already received.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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