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Now, President Bush seeks more Indians

US President has urged the Congress to raise the number of H-1B visas.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2006 20:43 IST

Making a strong pitch for America to stay competitive in the face of emerging economies such as India and China, President George W Bush has urged the Congress to raise the number of H-1B visas.

H-1B visas will allow US companies to hire foreign workers for scientific and high tech jobs.

"Congress needs to understand that nations like China and India and Japan and Korea and Canada all offer tax incentives that are permanent. In other words, we live in a competitive world. We want to be the leader in this world," Bush said in a speech in Minnesota on Thursday.

To fill vacant jobs in the US, Bush urged the Congress to lift current limit on HIB visas that allow foreign workers to get jobs in the US.

The Congress in 2005 capped at 65,000 the number of HIB visas, a third of the 195,000 allowed during the technology boom.

"I think it's a mistake not to encourage more really bright folks who can fill the jobs that are having trouble being filled here in America, to limit their number...So I call upon Congress to be realistic and reasonable and raise that cap," Bush said but did not say by how much he wanted the limit lifted.

He said that one part of the agenda to stay competitive was to study math and science, a theme he touched on in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

"It's one thing to research,.. But if you don't have somebody in that lab...And so I got some ideas for the Congress to consider. The first is to emphasise math and science early, and to make sure that the courses are rigorous enough that our children can compete globally," Bush said in a speech at the 3M Corporation.

He said there are more high-tech jobs in America today than people available to fill them..."so what do we do about that? And the reason it's important, and the American citizen has got to understand it's important, is if we don't do something about how to fill those high-tech jobs here, they'll go somewhere else where somebody can do the job."

"There are some who say, we can't worry about competition. It doesn't matter, it's here. .... It's a real aspect of the world in which we live," he said.

"And so one way to deal with this problem, and probably the most effective way, is to recognise that there's a lot of bright engineers and chemists and physicists from other lands that are either educated here, or received an education elsewhere but want to work here. And they come here under a programme called H1B visas," Bush said.

He said America should not fear competition. "It's important for us not to lose our confidence in changing times. It's important for us not to fear competition but welcome it."

Senior administration officials noted that the number of H-1B visas has fallen to 65,000, which in their estimation was "too low", and that it was imperative "to bump that up".

"...Some of reports have called for increases of 10,000; others between 20,000 and 40,000. So there are a number of options on the table to be considered. But we'll work with Congress on that," said Claude Allen, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.

First Published: Feb 03, 2006 08:56 IST