European programmers and technology specialists could benefit from a petition by Microsoft and other technology suppliers to get US restrictions on hiring foreign professionals removed.
Microsoft, Sun and Texas Instruments are to lobby a Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow, seeking to remove the current limits on hiring foreign professional workers, as they face an escalating skills crisis.
The US currently limits to 65,000 the number of H-1B visas - allowing non-American computer programmers and other professionals such as doctors to work in the US for six years - issued in a year. This limit will be reached by June, the hi-tech firms claim, with almost half of the allocation now going to computer staff.
Last year, an estimated 44 per cent of these visas were computer related, up from 25 per cent two years earlier.
No more will be issued until 1 October, aggravating the growing skills problems that IT companies face. Texas Instruments says 10-15 per cent of its hiring is via the H-1B scheme but the cap on the number of visas is making it hard to find sufficient skills to meet ambitious development programmes.
Although it will not testify tomorrow, Intel also backs a repeal of the current laws. It takes one-third of the 300-400 design engineers it employs each year from outside the US, many of them graduate students from European universities.
Microsoft also argues that hiring people from a mixture of backgrounds fosters creativity and competition.
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