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US Senate okays doubling H1B visas

Part of a landmark immigration reform bill, it will greatly benefit Indian techies.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 03:26 IST

The US Senate has approved a near-doubling of the highly-coveted H-1B work visas -- from 65,000 to 1,15,000 with an option to raise the cap by 20 per cent annually.

But it may be too soon to celebrate, as the version of the omnibus immigration bill, passed already by the House of Representatives, does not provide for any increase in the number of H-1B visas. It will now be for a House-Senate conference to reconcile the two wildly different bills and come up with a version acceptable to both chambers.

This, Congressional sources reckon, could prove to be a tough and protracted exercise, given the fundamental opposition by House of Republicans to any easing of immigration norms.

Raising the H-1B visa cap is only a small part of the immigration bill, whose most contentious feature is to open a path for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to become citizens once they fulfill a series of conditions and take their turn in the queue.

Indian techies have been the principal beneficiaries of the H-1B visa scheme, which allows skilled foreign hands to work in the US up to six years. During the dotcom boom, the visa cap had been raised to 1,95,000. But, it was rolled back to 65,000 three years ago.

US business bodies, who have been lobbying for the visa increase, have hailed the initiative nd will continue with their bid to persuade members to endorse the increase.