The U.S. tech industry needs a lot of things to continue to flourish, but one of the resources it needs the most is workers. For many tech companies, this means ready availability to H1-B employees, or skilled tech workers from abroad.
A bipartisan U.S. Senate immigration bill introduced yesterday nearly doubles the quota for H-1B visas for skilled workers. The bill, introduced by a group of Senators known as the “Gang of Eight,” is supported by President Obama. The legislation is said to be in response to pressure levied on Congress by the U.S. tech industry to boost the number of H1-B available for hire, which previous to this legislation, stood at a maximum of 85,000. While the legislation does not raise the number of H1-B visas as high as the tech industry had originally wanted (a cap of 300,000), it will boost the cap to about 180,000 such workers with an additional 25,000 set aside for new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates. The bill also includes provisions for loosening green card or permanent residency provisions for some workers based on merit.
"This really does a lot to address our concerns about being able to hire workers when we need them," Intel (News - Alert) Corp (INTC.O) policy director Peter Muller told Reuters. "We're certainly going to be looking into details of this going forward ... but in terms of the big picture, we're very encouraged and pleased."
Many tech companies are expressing cautious optimism about the bill, but note that they will reserve judgment until they have had the opportunity to examine the full text of the legislation. Some are troubled by rumors of increased Department of Labor powers to investigate companies hiring H1-B workers for irregularities.
Some workers groups have expressed dismay at the legislation in the belief that an expansion of the H1-B worker program will job prospects for U.S. citizens. The final draft of the legislation, which is part of a broader immigration reform effort in Washington, is expected sometime today.