US faces skill crunch, to review H1B visa


Washington: Making a case for
increasing the number of H1B visas, the US Commerce Secretary has said
high-tech businesses are facing shortages in filling up positions and
lamented that students from India and China cannot stay in US and apply
their skills.

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Guttierrez
made the point in his testimony before the Judiciary Committee that was
having Comprehensive Immigration reform as its topic of hearings when
the issue of the H1B visas came up for a brief discussion.

“Just on the issue of high-skilled
workers, what I hear very often from businesses in the high-tech field
and other fields where they cannot fill their high-skilled engineering,
science-based jobs as quickly or as readily as they would like,” the
Commerce Secretary said.

“We have students come over from the
world: India, China, primarily. They get the best education money can
buy, and then they have to go back home; they can’t stay here and apply
their skills. We believe that we should be able to do better than that
in order to serve our competitiveness needs as a nation,” Guttierrez
said agreeing with a Republican lawmaker that the current quotas on the
H1Bs need to be revised upwards.

Guttierrez was responding to a statement
by Republican Senator Orin Hatch of Utah who called for the H1B visa
programme to be revisited as a part of the comprehensive overhaul of
the immigration laws of America.

“The Chinese are educating 300,000
engineers a year. We educate 60,000, half of whom are foreigners, and
many of whom then go home to their countries and educate their people
in competition with us where they’d love to stay here and work as maybe
not citizens, but at least as people who have the credentials to work,”
Senator Hatch observed.

“I think (Microsoft founder) Bill Gates is
absolutely right on that. And we need to up those figures. But every
time we try to up the figures on the H-1B – PhD engineers and
scientists and others that are going to be crucial to keep our country
moving ahead – we then have the other side coming out and saying we’re
being unfair because you’re taking care of them but you’re not taking
care of the average person.

“How are we going to balance that? Because
I personally believe we’ve got to expand the H-1B program, as Gates and
almost everybody in the high-tech world believes. And then, of course,
at the same time, do some reasonable things without granting amnesty,
and having people earn their right to citizenship the way you’ve been
talking here today,” the senior lawmaker said.

The issue of H1B visas was a part of the
Senate package on Immigration reform in the 109th Congress which failed
to get anywhere as Republican and Democratic law makers could not get
into a Conference on widely varying Immigration bills that came out of
the House of Representatives and Senate.

Law makers in the 110th Congress are a
long way off from any agreement on a comprehensive package but the
Senate version in the 109th Congress had called for nearly doubling the
current levels of H1B’s from the current 65,000 annual cap and yearly

The version of Immigration Bill that cleared the House last Congress had virtually nothing on the H1B visas.

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