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US tech chiefs ask Obama to allow more skilled immigration

Washington, Mar 19, 2013, (PTI) : 13:46 IST
Chief executive officers of some of America's top tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, have written to President Barack Obama and lobbied the lawmakers to allow more high-skilled immigration given their significant role in the country's economy.

"One of the biggest economic challenges facing our nation is the need for more qualified, highly-skilled professionals, domestic and foreign, who can create jobs and immediately contribute to and improve our economy," wrote more than 100 technology executives in a letter dated March 14.

"As leaders of technology companies from around the country, we want to thank you for your sincere efforts in addressing high skilled immigration and we urge that you and your colleagues enact reform legislation this year,"they said.

Among prominent signatories to the letter were Randal Stephenson, Chairman and CEO, AT&T; KR Sridhar, CEO, Bloom Energy; John Donahoe, CEO, eBay; Mark Zuckerberg, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Facebook; Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google; Meg Whitman, President and CEO, Hewlett-Packard; Paul Otellini, CEO, Intel; Bradford L. Smith, General Counsel and EVP, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft; Bob Greifeld, CEO, NASDAQ OMX; Safra Catz, President and CFO, Oracle; and Marissa Mayer, CEO, President and Director, Yahoo.

"Because our current immigration system is outdated and inefficient, many high-skilled immigrants who want to stay in America are forced to leave because they are unable to obtain permanent visas," the letter said.

"Some do not bother to come in the first place. This is often due to visa shortages, long waits for green cards, and lack of mobility. We believe that numerical levels and categories for high-skilled nonimmigrant and immigrant visas should be responsive to market needs and, where appropriate, include mechanisms to fluctuate based on objective standards. In addition, spouses and children should not be counted against the cap of high-skilled immigrant visas. There should not be a marriage or family penalty," the letter said.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are tens of thousands of unfilled jobs requiring highly skilled individuals.

The letter said four high-tech companies alone - IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle - have combined 10,000 openings in the United States.

"Each one of these jobs has the potential to create many others, directly and indirectly. Bipartisan legislation currently introduced in the Senate, such as The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, and the Start-Up Visa Act, will encourage innovation here in the US by allowing American companies and entrepreneurs to have access to the talented workers they need while simultaneously investing in STEM education here in the US," the letter said.

"We know what it will take to keep America in a position of global leadership. We know that when America is leading, our economic growth follows to the benefit of our nation's workforce," executives told Obama in the letter.

"We call on you to address the need for more qualified, highly-skilled professionals, domestic and foreign, and to enact immigration reform this year. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues in a bipartisan way as we move forward in our common interest," the letter said.

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