Techies to benefit from US immigration reform bill

Techies to benefit from US immigration reform bill

The US measure to deal with the problem of more than 11 million illegal immigrants, including 2,60,000 Indians, has now moved to the Senate floor for consideration.

This happened after a bipartisan immigration reform bill cleared a key hurdle when its authors negotiated a compromise with Republican senator Orrin G Hatch to relax some restrictions on high-tech companies on hiring foreign techies, many of whom come from India.

If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the America's immigration policy since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to nearly three million illegal immigrants.

The legislation would raise the annual limit of high-tech visas, known as H-1B, coveted by the Indian techies, from 65,000 to 1.8 lakh, but Hatch had lobbied to eliminate several other restrictions.

Members of the Democratic-controlled panel Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure 13-5 with three Republicans joining 10 Democrats after the so-called “Gang of Eight” on Tuesday worked out the compromise with Hatch.

The compromise amendment lifts the requirement that companies first offer tech jobs to Americans for all firms except those that depend on foreigners for more than 15 per cent of their workforce and relaxes the formula for determining the annual number of foreign high-tech workers.

The high-tech amendments came after over five days of hearings on dozens of proposed changes. But Hatch warned that he could still drop his support in the full Senate if other concerns were not met.

“I’ve got to get those or we’ll never pass this bill,” he said.

US President Barack Obama, who has made immigration reform his top priority, issued a statement praising the committee for approving a bill that was “largely consistent” with the principles he had outlined.

“None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I,” Obama said. “But in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result.”

Both party leaders in the Senate also appeared supportive of the final version of 850-page bill, a positive sign for backers hoping to win a solid majority in the full chamber.
The House is working on its own version of immigration reforms.

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