Tuesday, December 20, 2005

High-Tech Visa Plan Dropped From Bill

A Senate-passed measure to add more visas for foreign workers in high-tech and specialty fields was dropped from a budget bill that passed the House early Monday, disappointing high-tech and manufacturing firms in search of skilled workers.

The Senate plan would have allowed 30,000 more of the popular H1-B visas each year, and increased fees for those visas to help trim the budget deficit. Congress capped the six-year H-1B visas at 65,000 per year in 2004, and that cap has already been reached for the 2006 fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Critics contend the visas give foreigners high-level jobs that should go to American workers, and the plan was opposed by some House Republicans as a backdoor way to boost immigration. House and Senate negotiators left it out of the final version of a $39.7 billion federal budget bill that passed the House 212-206 and was expected to get a Senate vote later in the day.

The boost to visa availability and fees was meant to achieve budget savings in programs under jurisdiction of the congressional judiciary committees. Instead of using visas, the final version of the bill saves money in judiciary programs by increasing fees for filing lawsuits and filing for bankruptcy.

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