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H-1B visa hike may not materialise

Doubts prevail over the immigration bill, which includes the visa aspect that is critical to Indians looking for work in US, reports S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: May 31, 2006 13:17 IST

A question mark has come to hang on the Senate-passed omnibus immigration bill, which includes raising the H-1B visa cap from 65,000 to 115,000, apart from its central thrust of opening a "path to citizenship" to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

In remarks, by no means unexpected, House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner declared on Sunday that the House will never accept an "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

Unless a compromise is thrashed out on the issue of eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants who fulfil a series of conditions, the whole legislation, including the H-1B visa aspect, will not see the light of day. 

The two chambers have passed widely differing bills that will have to be reconciled by a conference of negotiators before an acceptable version is passed and sent to the president for assent.

The H-1B visa issue, which is critical to Indian techies and other professionals looking for work opportunities in the US, is only a minor aspect of the composite bill, but its fate is linked to agreement on the more contentious features of the two bills. 

The House version has completely overlooked demands to raise the H-1B cap. It also does not make any provision for raising the quota of green cards handed for permanent residence in the US.

Meanwhile, the US's largest engineering group — the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers — has sought to slam the Senate move to raise the H-1B cap. "We don't understand why the Senate wants to expand a programme that numerous government reports have found leaves US and foreign workers open to exploitation," its president Ralph Wyndrum, Jr. said in a statement.