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H-1B Visas Run Out; Tech Firms Scramble H-1B Visas Run Out; Tech Firms Scramble

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Congress

H-1B Visas Run Out; Tech Firms Scramble

January 28, 2011

It happens almost every year. The only question is when. The Department of Homeland Security is no longer accepting applications for H-1B visas for temporary skilled foreign workers, having received enough to fill the annual cap of 65,000. This leaves employers, particularly tech firms, scrambling to figure out how they will fill engineering or other technical job openings without looking outside the United States.

It's a familiar plight that coalitions like Compete America say could be fixed with a less draconian system of meting out visas. In the last year, it took 10 months to hit the cap. In other years, the allotted visas are filled within a few days after the April 1 filing period opens. "This fluctuation of demand from year to year - primarily driven by the economic cycles - demonstrates the need for a fundamental rebalance towards a market-driven approach to H-1B visa allocation," Compete America said Friday in a statement.

This isn't a new argument, but it's likely to fall on deaf ears in Congress. The last time a fluctuating cap on guestworker visas was seriously considered, it was part of a broad immigration bill that died a spectacular death on the Senate floor. Since then, Republicans have run away from anything that looks like they favor increased immigration, and Democrats have retreated to the union-oriented theme that guestworker encourage exploitation of workers. But don't give up, Compete America. You can make the same plea again next year when the H-1B visas run out.

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