A senate-passed measure to add more visas for foreign workers in high-tech and specialty fields was dropped from a budget bill that passed...

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WASHINGTON — A Senate-passed measure to add more visas for foreign workers in high-tech and specialty fields was dropped from a budget bill that passed the House early Monday, disappointing high-tech and manufacturing firms in search of skilled workers.

The Senate plan would have allowed 30,000 more of the popular H1-B visas each year and would have increased fees for those visas to help trim the budget deficit. Congress capped the six-year H-1B visas at 65,000 per year in 2004, and that cap has already been reached for the 2006 fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The Senate language also would have allowed 90,000 more employment-based green cards that offer permanent residency to skilled workers, and added fees for those.

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Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates urged the Bush administration and lawmakers in April to abolish immigration limits on foreign engineers who can be hired by U.S. companies.

Critics contend the visas give foreigners high-level jobs that should go to U.S. workers, and some House Republicans opposed the plan as a backdoor way to boost immigration.

Technology executives have argued they are unable to find qualified U.S. workers, a contention disputed by U.S. labor groups and unemployed computer engineers.

“Anybody who’s got good computer-science training, they are not out there unemployed,” Gates said in April. “We’re just not seeing an available labor pool.”

House and Senate negotiators left H1-B revisions out of the final version of a $39.7 billion federal budget bill.

“This is very, very disappointing,” said Sandy Boyd, a vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers. “What’s distressing about this, and what the Senate clearly understood, is there is a real global competition for this work and for these employees, and the question is not whether the work is going to get done, it’s where is the work going to get done. We’ve missed a real opportunity by not ensuring the work would be done here.”