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Microsoft asks Congress to add more H-1B visas to cap--with higher fees

There can be little dispute that efforts to achieve meaningful immigration reform in Congress have been stalling. Commentators and immigration advocates have proposed modifications to U.S. immigration law to create more H-1B visas in recent years. Another hot-button topic has been visas for people who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Sources say that the tough economy has reduced pressures to reform the H-B visa cap rules. The law currently places a cap of 65,000 visas under the H-1B visa program, with an exemption for an additional 20,000 visas for immigrants holding a master's degree or higher from U.S. universities. The work visas are issued each year beginning in April, and this blog reported in July that the H-1B cap had been met by June.

Earlier this year a proposal to add 55,000 H-1B visas was defeated in Congress. The visas were proposed to be taken from the diversity visa program. Shortly after that measure failed, the giant software company, Microsoft unveiled a proposal to create additional H-1B visas.

The company says it has roughly 6,000 positions currently open, but cannot fill in today's marketplace. The business has proposed that Congress add 20,000 more H-1B visas to the annual cap and an equal number of STEM green cards to increase access for companies to find qualified workers.

Microsoft's proposal would increase the cost for businesses in obtaining workers, but the actual increase is not entirely clear. The company is urging Congress to put a price tag of $10,000 for an H-1B visa and $15,000 on a STEM green card for businesses. But it is not clear if the price tag supplants, or is in addition to, current fees associated with the visas.

The proposal also asks Congress to take the revenues generated through the new fees and apply that money toward education programs in the STEM fields. The company estimated that the visa fees would generate up to $500 million each year.

Source: Computer World, "Trying to fill 6,000 jobs, Microsoft pitches $10,000 H-1B visa," Patrick Thibodeau, Sept. 28, 2012

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