Posted on February 6, 2006

Bush Asks for More Visas for High-Tech Workers

Rebecca Knight, Financial Times (London), February 3, 2006

President George W. Bush, who is touring the country as part of a weeks-long campaign to promote his 2006 agenda, called on Congress yesterday to raise the number of visas that allow companies to fill high-tech jobs with foreign workers.

‘The problem is. . . that Congress has limited the number of H-1B visas,’ Mr Bush said, referring to the name of the official passport endorsement. ‘I think it’s a mistake not to encourage more really bright folks who can fill the jobs that are having trouble being filled in America, to limit their number. So I call upon Congress to be realistic and reasonable to raise that cap.’

The H-1B visa, which allows US employers to have access to highly educated foreign professionals, many of whom work in scientific research, medicine and technology, has been a point of contention between business and government over the past two years. High-tech industries battling talent shortages blame the visa programme’s low cap on approved new workers.

In 1990 — the year it took effect — the cap was set at 65,000. That number was progressively raised by Congress during the technology boom and hit an all-time high for fiscal years 2001 through to 2003, at 195,000. In 2004, however, the cap dropped back to 65,000 and has stayed there since.