21 March 2006

Bill Gates joins the H1-B visa lobby

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates visited Washington D.C. last week to lend support to his Washington lobby office; they are trying to persuade the Senate to expand the number of H1-B visas issued.

Mr Gates noted that highly skilled migration is a top priority for Microsoft. The company, he says, currently has employees waiting at the border ready to come to work but cannot because of the current restrictions on the H1B visa program.

The H1-B visa program has allowed 65,000 people into America every year since 2003. Prior to the dot com bust, that number stood at 115,000. To qualify, applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree, specialized knowledge and a job offer from an American employer. The visa is valid for six years.

For Mr Gates, who’s company doesn’t generally outsource IT specialists as the company prefers to have everyone at Microsoft ‘on campus’, the H1-B limit is causing serious issues. He’s baffled that Stanford Computer Science Department graduates cannot get visas to work in the United States as such highly skilled employees are catalysts for a growing economy.

In addition to backing an increase in the H1-B visa numbers, Mr Gates and others are lobbying to have dependents excluded from the cap, which could see visa grants increase to 300,000 people a year.

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