US Chamber of Commerce backs raise in H-1B cap

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : The United States Chamber of Commerce has expressed support for a proposed change in US law to raise the cap on H-1B visas for highly skilled workers like IT professionals from India.

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The chamber, said to be the world's largest business federation, said in a letter Thursday to members of the US Senate that the proposed change would provide an interim solution for companies and organisations in need of highly skilled workers by raising the H-1B cap to 115,000 for 2008.

The amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2008 would also recapture unused employment based (EB) green cards from previous fiscal years and make them available to help alleviate current backlogs.

"These provisions would provide a needed short term fix to the system," said the letter from the chamber representing numerous companies and organisations that need to bring highly skilled workers into the United States each year.

The H-1B visa cap was hit for the ninth time on the first day visas were available for fiscal year 2008, it noted. There has also been a backlog of EB green cards for permanent residence.

The inability of companies to bring highly educated workers and students into the United States, and retain them permanently when needed, severely hurts their ability to compete in the global marketplace, the letter said.

These shortages and inefficient processes often force companies to move some operations to other countries so that they are able to recruit the workers they need.

"It is imperative that reforms to the H-1B visa programme and the EB green card system occur this year, allowing American businesses to remain competitive," it said, urging the senators to support the amendment.