Major technology employers like Microsoft, Oracle and others have been calling for years for more visas for foreigners with computer, engineering and mathematics skills, saying they have more jobs than they can fill with Americans graduates.

Binary_GlobeAs one bipartisan group of senators released its blueprint for a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration laws, another group in the Senate was ready to present a proposal addressing one dysfunctional aspect of the system: a shortage of visas for highly skilled immigrants working in science and technology fields.

Four senators, led by Orrin G. Hatch, a Republican from Utah, will introduce a bill that would greatly increase the number of temporary visas available for those immigrants, and would also free up permanent resident visas, known as green cards, so more of those immigrants could settle in the United States and eventually become citizens.

Major technology employers like Microsoft, Oracle and others have been calling for years for more visas for foreigners with computer, engineering and mathematics skills, saying they have more jobs than they can fill with Americans who are graduating in those fields from American universities. White House officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that a broad overhaul, including a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, would have a better chance at attracting votes for passage, especially among Republicans, if it had vigorous support from business.

The bill by Mr. Hatch’s smaller group is a detailed plan to recalibrate the high-skilled visa system. It would immediately increase the cap on temporary visas for those immigrants, known as an H-1B, to 115,000 a year from the current maximum of 65,000. It would also create, for the first time, a “market-based” system that would rapidly increase the numbers of those visas if the supply ran out, to a maximum of 300,000 H-1B visas in one year.

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Source: Julia Preston | The New York Times | January 28, 2013