Microsoft stresses importance of US H-1B visa for IT companies

This week, as employers began filing petitions for the popular US H-1B work visas, Microsoft stressed the importance of the visa in keeping America's IT companies competitive.

"While the vast majority of our US workforce is comprised of US workers, the individuals we employ in H-1B status -educated at some of the best universities in the US and around the world - are crucial to our business," said Brad Smith, general counsel & executive vice president, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft.

Current immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each government fiscal year. This consists of 65,000 new H-1B visas available for graduate level overseas workers in professional or specialty occupation positions, and an additional 20,000 visas available for those with an advanced degree from a US academic institution.

"Even with our economy in the midst of a prolonged recovery, the annual allotment of H-1B visas is projected to be exhausted earlier than last year, and well before the end of the government's fiscal year," Smith said. "Our economy is hungry for workers with strong educational backgrounds, especially those with degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields."

Smith also expressed Microsoft's unhappiness with the current Green Card system and the per-country caps they currently have in place.

"There are important steps that Congress can take right now to accomplish this. The House passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act in November with overwhelming and rare bipartisan consensus, 389-15," Smith said. "The bill would replace the discriminatory 'per-country' limits on employment-based green cards with a merit-based, first-come-first-served system, but it has unfortunately stalled in the Senate."

If the bill is passed, the 140,000 employment-based green cards that the US issues each year would be available on a first come, first served basis. Currently, individuals from any one country can account for no more than 7 percent of the total work-related green cards issued. Critics of the current process claim that it is more likely to affect individuals from populous countries such as India and China, which produce large numbers of technology professionals.

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