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Bush calls for increase in US H-1B visas

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US President George W. Bush has urged the Congress to raise the number of H-1B visas that allow 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 February 2.

To fill vacant jobs in the US, Bush urged the Congress to increase the current limit on H-1B visas that allow foreign workers to get jobs in the US. The Congress in 2005 capped the number of H-1B visas at 65,000, 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 there are more high-tech jobs in America today than people available to fill them.

"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 program called H-1B visas," Bush said.

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 is 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.