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US votes to increase H1B visa numbers

The US Senate voted in favour of increasing the cap on H-1B visas by 30,000 to 95,000 from next year. The H-1B visa is largely used in the IT industry to employ skilled professionals, and industry leaders have been lobbying for its increase in recent months.

The Senate also voted to increase the number of legal immigrants as part of a broad budget deficit cutting bill that was passed on 3 Nov. by a margin of 52 to 47 votes.

With a view to meeting its deficit reduction target, the Senate Judiciary Committee had last month called for adding some 90,000 employment-based green cards per year and raising the fee by US $500, which would earn some US $250 million for the government.

The Judiciary Committee increased the cap on the H-1B visas by 30,000 and raised the fee, adding another US $75 million.

The budget deficit reduction bill that was cleared by the Senate also removes family members from the ceiling on employment-based immigration visas that would now increase legal immigration by 240,000 people every year.

The total increase to immigration would now come to 330,000 a year, up nearly 33 per cent.

The passage of the Senate bill did not come by without opposition. Senior Democrat from West Virginia, Robert Byrd tried to take away the visa provisions from the bill but was overwhelmingly defeated by a 85 to 14 vote with only ten Democrats, three Republicans and one Independent supporting him.