09 April 2009

American H-1B visa programme being debated

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The American H-1B visa programme is being pressured by groups who feel it is causing unemployment to rise and salaries to drop, reports ThomasNet News.

The American H-1B visa allows foreign workers to live and work in the US on a temporary American visa, provided an American employer petitions the USCIS on behalf of the prospective employee to get the visa grant.  The foreign worker must have been working in a specialty occupation and the employer (petitioner) must file a labour condition application before the visa can be processed.

Opposition groups are now using the rising unemployment rates to argue that the H-1B visa programme should be dramatically reduced.  Currently, 65,000 H-1B visas are allocated annually to high-tech workers and 20,000 extra H-1B visas are available for foreign workers with advanced American degrees.

Critics are pushing for the pathway to working in America to be restricted, yet the Obama administration is working against a policy of protectionism and has meanwhile been introducing rights to protect American workers from being unfairly displaced by employers.

 "The economy is affecting the way that companies are using H-1B visas," Workforce Management reports. 

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith agreed.

"Given the economic downturn, we are filing substantially fewer H-1B applications than we filed last year," he said in his 'Microsoft on the Issues' blog this month, adding that despite making 5 per cent of its workforce redundant, he "still sees the program as an important part of its strategy to hire the best people, regardless of their citizenship".

Last year, according to reports, the annual quota of 65,000 H-1B American visas was reached, as well as receiving 163,000 applications for April 2009's intake for the programme.


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