FWD/MEDIA: High-tech Firms Seek To End Cap On Foreign Workers

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (sasha1@netcom.com)
Tue, 24 Feb 1998 17:14:12 -0500

It's so typical for this so-called planning system to start
handling the situation after it has developed into a very
obvious crisis, that I don't even find it funny anymore...
However, this may be very symptomatic - I suggested this very
scenario to my friend yesterday, with the hope that the
quickening progress of technology will destroy justifications
for at least some restrictions on personal liberty.

Maybe, this is a first step on making highly skilled labor
a globally privileged elite, as the recognition of their
importance, scarcity and exterritorial nature of their work.
(Nature doesn't apply the same territorial restrictions to
tigers and fungi; the governments, so far, have)

This story is taken from:


Tuesday February 24 10:23 AM EST

High-tech Firms Seek To End Cap On Foreign Workers

By Deeann Glamser

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft and other high-tech companies,
which say they face a critical shortage of programmers and
engineers, this week will ask Congress to eliminate the hiring
cap on foreign professionals.

"This has slowly built to a crisis situation this year," Brian
Raymond, domestic policy manager for the American Electronics
Association, a trade group representing some 3,000 technology
companies, said in a recent interview.

At issue are H-1B visas, allowing non-citizen doctors, computer
programmers and other professionals to work in the United States
for up to six years. The visas are used to fill shortages of
skilled workers, or are for people with extraordinary talents.

This year, the annual limit of 65,000 H-1B visas is expected to
be hit by June, with no more issued until Oct. 1, the start of
the next federal fiscal year.

Last year, the allotment was gone by September, the first time
the limit was reached.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing scheduled for
Wednesday on H-1B visas for high-tech workers.

Microsoft, Texas Instruments Inc. and Sun Microsystems officials
will testify in favor of repealing the cap.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA, the

leading U.S. professional group for electrical and electronics
engineers, wants to retain the current limit.

Visa information is sketchy, but 44 percent of pre- application
certifications -- the requests companies make to the Labor
Department as a prerequisite for applying for an H-1B visa -- in
fiscal 1997 were for computer occupations, up from 25 percent in
fiscal 1995.

The next-largest category in fiscal 1997 was physical therapists,
at 26 percent of requests.

The Information Technology Association of America, a trade
association that also opposes the cap, says companies with 100 or
more employees have 346,000 openings for programmers, systems
analysts and computer engineers, or 10 percent of the nation's
3.3 million information-technology jobs.

Semiconductor maker Texas Instruments hires about 150 H-1B visa
holders a year, 10 percent to 15 percent of its annual technical

Most are graduate students at U.S. universities and become
residents here. The majority are from Taiwan and India.

"These employees are critical. We depend greatly on electrical
engineering talent to build our products," said Stephen Leven,
Texas Instruments director of worldwide human resources.

Intel also wants the cap repealed. It hires 300 to 400 foreign
design engineers a year, almost a third of the design engineers
it hires annually and about 4 percent of the slightly more than
10,000 people it hired in 1997.

As at Texas Instruments, most are graduate students sponsored by
the company for residency.

Visa-limit proponents say more U.S. students are enrolling in
engineering and computer sciences as job prospects surge, and
older employees can be retrained for the changing job market.

"We really believe there is a sufficient amount of people to
satisfy needs in the U.S.," said Paul Kostek, a Seattle- based
consultant and president-elect of the Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers-USA.

Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of
California at Davis, said companies exacerbate the worker
shortage by requiring very specific skills for each job and
preferring males in their 20s and 30s.

"They want them young, and with the latest, hot technology, "
Matloff said. "For experienced programmers, learning a new
language is no big deal."

He said visa workers earn less on average than their U.S. peers
and are unlikely to leave a company sponsoring them for permanent

Microsoft has not released its H-1B figures, but says a mix of
cultural backgrounds is critical in a global marketplace.

"It's important for us to hire the most appropriate workers to

compete," said Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan.

Alexander Chislenko <http://www.lucifer.com/~sasha/home.html>