Gates Asks Congress For More H-1B Visas


"...As you know, our immigration system makes it very difficult for U.S. firms to hire highly skilled foreign workers," Gates said, according to a transcript of his testimony. "Last year, at Microsoft, we were unable to obtain H-1B visas for over a third of our foreign-born candidates.

"There are a number of steps that Congress and the White House should take to address this problem, including extending the period that foreign students can work here after graduation, increasing the current cap on H-1B visas, clearing a path to permanent residency for high-skilled foreign-born employees, eliminating per-country green card limits, and significantly increasing the annual number of green cards," Gates said. "I want to emphasize that to address the shortage of scientists and engineers, we must...reform our education system and our immigration policies. If we don't, American companies simply will not have the talent they need to innovate and compete."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, told Gates be felt that high tech companies sought more H-1B visas because foreign-born workers could be paid less. In order to hire enough Americans, "you'd have to raise wages," he said.

"There are almost 150,000 programmers (who) have lost their jobs in this country since the year 2000," Rohrabacher added. "Now my reading of all of this is that there are plenty of people out there to hire, but people want to have the top-quality people from India and China and elsewhere, and they're willing to let these 150,000 American computer programmers just go unemployed."

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Gates disagreed. "It's not an issue of raising wages," he said. "These jobs are very, very, very high-paying jobs."