US president Bill Clinton called Thursday for raising the limit on temporary visas for foreign skilled workers to 200,000 a year in the next three years to meet the needs of the booming high-tech industry.
The request sent to Congress for 2001-3 boosts the number for H-1B visas from the current 107,500 for 2001 and from 65,000 for both 2002 and 2003.
"The president's proposal represents a balanced approach of a reasonable increases in the number of H-1B visas, significant provisions to protect and prepare the US workforce, and measures of fairness and equity for certain immigrants already in the US," White House economic advisor Gene Sperling said in a letter with the proposal.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimates that 40 percent of H-1B visas go to those holding a Master's degree or higher.
Clinton's proposal preserves that proportion for 2001 and slightly increases it in 2002-3, while significantly increasing the number of visas available to professionals with no more than a Bachelor's degree.
The US House of Representatives is currently considering a number of bills to address the shortage of high-tech workers while protecting US workers.
"The first and primary policy for increasing the availability of high-skilled workers must be focused on increasing the education and training of US workers," said Sperling's letter.
"However, at times US businesses need additional access to the international labor market to maintain and enhance our global competitiveness," it said - (AFP)
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