NEW YORK, Oct. 27 (GenomeWeb News) - Since the cap on H-1B visas for temporary foreign workers in the technology sector was reduced to 65,000 Oct. 1 from a height of 195,000 in 2001, Senator Orrin Hatch has been strongly advocating a plan to get around this plan by expanding exemptions to these visas, the Wall Street Journal reported today.
These visas have in recent years been important for companies in the bioinformatics and genomics space, (see BioInform, 11-14-98) although the wave of layoffs in the sector has led to less demand for foreign informatics and scientific professionals.
Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not yet introduced a bill, but any plan would incorporate protections for US workers, the report stated. Senator Chris Dodd introduced a bill, S. S.1452, on July 24 that would amend the law that provides for H-1B visas to more closely monitor the programs in order to protect US jobs. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. A similar bill, H.R. 2849, has been introduced in the House.
Meanwhile, Intel has introduced a plan to exempt foreign students with graduate technical degrees from the cap, the Journal said.
The Indian IT press has covered the issue extensively as the majority of H-1B visas are for Indian professionals, (see reports by the Times of India) . But some reports have indicated that while the reduction in the cap has caused some anxiety among those Indian workers in Silicon Valley, the increasing opportunity that many have for "offshoring," or continuing to work for an American company while returning to India, has somewhat diminished these concerns.
To read testimony from a Sept. 16 Senate Judiciary committee hearing on H-1B visas, click here.