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Microsoft chief Bill Gates for big raise in H-1B visas

Gates has added his voice to demand that US Congress clear the decks for a hefty increase, writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 01:30 IST

Flying into Washington DC on a rare visit, Microsoft chief Bill Gates has added his powerful voice to the demand that US Congress clear the decks for a hefty increase in the number of H-1B visas.

Gates, faced with the shortage of Indian and other foreign techies, decided to come down to the US capital and personally lobby for an end to visa woes that have affected the operations of Microsoft and other US giants.

The visit came amid moves to come up with a legislation in the Senate to raise the H-1B cap from 65,000 visas a year to 115,000, with a built-in provision for 20% increase every year. “The high skills immigration issue is by far the No. 1 thing. This is gigantic for us,” the world’s richest man told the Washington Post and pointed to the irony of Indian techies having to go back after doing advanced computer courses in the US because of the visa shortage.

“It’s kind of ironic to have somebody graduate from Stanford Computer Science Department and there’s not enough H1B visas, so they have to go back to India,” he said, adding: “And I have people who have been hired, who are just sitting on the border waiting.”

Beginning fiscal 2004, the H-1B visas are down to 65,000 from a peak of 195,000 allowed for the preceding three years. The drop is so precipitous that the whole H-1B quota is now exhausted well before the start of the fiscal year.

Gates grumbled that he has a hard time understanding the logic of those who decry the outsourcing of American jobs, but are still reluctant to the entry of high-skilled people who are catalysts for US growth.

Alongside the move to raise the H-1B cap, Gates backs the Bush administration’s plan to boost the teaching of math and science in US high schools as part of the long-term goal to expand the supply of qualified Americans for tech jobs.

First Published: Mar 21, 2006 01:30 IST