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'Let market decide on H1B numbers'

world Updated: Aug 16, 2010 18:02 IST

Slamming the critics of H-1B, a US think-tank and corporate America have suggested removal of Congressional cap on this popular work visa programme and allow markets to determine number of skilled foreign workers eligible to work in the country.

"The best policy for the United States is one that sides with freedom and innovation, not restriction. It is a policy where the H-1B cap is either eliminated or set high enough that we can let the market decide on the number of new skilled foreign nationals who work in America each year," a report said.

The 81-page report titled "Regaining America's Competitive Advantage: Making our Immigration System Work" has been jointly prepared by US Chamber of Commerce, which is the top representative body of the American businesses, American Council on International Personnel, an eminent think-tank.

US President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a new 'Border Security Bill' proposing a steep hike in some categories of H-1B and L-1 visa fees which is expected to badly hurt Indian IT firms which may have to shell out an additional USD 250 million annually for the next five years.

"The best policy would ease the way for employers to sponsor high skilled individuals for green cards by exempting from labour certification and current employment-based immigrant quotas many who now languish in 6 to 20 year queues," the report said.

"Allowing top talent who graduate from US universities to gain a green card directly will help US employers retain the world's leading future innovators," the report said.

The report has come out with some very interesting finding about H-1B visa programme, according to which popular foreign work visa has been a key factor in US' competitiveness and its economic growth.

Who is in a better position to determine which employees are most likely to make Apple, Amazon or other US companies successful? Is it critics of immigration, government bureaucrats, or the companies themselves?," the report said.

Findings of this report show that leading US companies cite the role played by highly educated foreign nationals in the success of the organisation.

Noting that the critics argue US has too much talent entry of high skilled foreign nationals should be blocked, the report says real immigration-related problem is that many talented people have not been able to stay in US after graduation because of low quotas for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards.

"H-1B visas are a large source of scholarship money for US students, with H-1B training and scholarship fees levied on each petition (and renewal) having funded more than 53,000 math and science college scholarships for US students through the National Science Foundation," it said.

"There is little evidence high skilled foreign nationals on H-1B visas are in general paid less than their American counterparts," the report said.

The report said critics who insist H-1B professionals are hired to "save money" fail to note that in addition to legal requirement to pay H-1B visa holders higher than prevailing or actual wage paid to US workers, employers must pay significant legal and government fees.

The American Council on International Personnel estimates combined H-1B and green card sponsorship costs (government/legal fees) can exceed USD 35,000 for one person.

"Critics also ignore that the labour market is global and if US employers were interested only in lower labour costs they would shift all their work overseas," it said.