Faced with a shortage of highly skilled workers, US Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierrez wants the cap on H1B visas raised to let more students from India and China stay and add to America's competitiveness.
"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," he told a Senate panel on Thursday.
"We believe that we should be able to do better than that in order to serve our competitiveness needs as a nation," he said, appearing before the Judiciary Committee discussing Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Endorsing a suggestion by Republican Orin Hatch to raise the current cap on H1B visas, Guttierrez noted that businesses in high-tech and other fields "cannot fill their high-skilled engineering, science-based jobs as quickly or as readily as they would like".
"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," Hatch observed.
Raising H1B visa caps formed part of the Senate package on immigration reform that fell through in the last Congress with the House of Representatives and Senate failing to reconcile their widely varying Immigration bills.
A new comprehensive immigration reforms package is still elusive, but the Senate version in the last Congress had called for nearly doubling the cap on H1B visas from the current level of 65,000 with additional annual increases.