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IT industry lauds US Senate nod to immigration Bill

Our Bureau

Provision to hike H-1B visas to 1,15,000

New Delhi , May 27

In a move that will bring cheer to Indian IT professionals and industry, the US Senate has approved an Immigration Reform Bill that has a provision to increase the number of H-1B visas for skilled workers from 65,000 to 1,15,000.

"This is a good step albeit a small one as the Senate-passed bill will now have to be harmonised with the bill passed by the House in December. The bigger challenge is in the House...We look forward to enhanced co-operation with our customers and partners," the Nasscom President, Mr Kiran Karnik, said.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation (S. 2611) was passed by Senate on Thursday by 62-36 votes. Of specific interest to the industry are the provisions pertaining to H-1B visa and the employment-based Green Card system that could ease the backlogs and replace arbitrary caps with a more rationale system. The provisions are part of a larger and more controversial immigration law, which would allow millions of undocumented workers to seek legal status in the US.

However, the Bill adoption is not guaranteed as it differs sharply from a tougher version passed by House of Representatives, and the two must now be reconciled.

`A step forward'

The US industry, too, has welcomed the passage of the Bill. In a statement issued in Redmond, the Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, Mr Bill Gates, lauded the Senate for recognising that US competitiveness depended on "ability to recruit and retain the world's best minds, no matter where they are from".

"By passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation today that makes prudent adjustments to the annual H1-B visa and green card caps for high skilled employees, the US Senate has taken a critical step forward in its important work to ensure that our nation remains the global leader in technology innovation," he said.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a US industrial trade association, said the legislation was a step further in securing America's ability to compete globally.

A recent NAM survey of small and mid-sized manufacturers found that half of the respondents have unfilled positions because they can not find qualified workers.

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