Mr. Gates Goes to Washington to Push H-1B Visas


Bill Gates may have reduced his day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft, but he's still one of the biggest boosters around for increasing the number of H-1B visas.


Gates recently addressed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, telling the legislators that Microsoft and other high-tech employers are facing a "critical shortage" of qualified employees.


Gates was invited to speak by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who are working on an immigration bill that may include an increase in the annual H-1B visa cap.


The last immigration bill including a proposed H-1B increase, from the current 65,000 to 115,000, didn't fare so well.


To hear Gates tell it, even 115,000 won't be enough. The U.S. should have access to an "infinite" number of skilled foreign workers to fill IT posts, he told the committee. During the dot-com days, the annual H-1B visa cap was as high as 195,000.


IT hiring shows no signs of slowing, according to a recent Robert Half Technology report, which is predicting a 12 percent net hiring increase in 2007's second quarter, the highest since the third quarter of 2002.


Irina Plumlee, head of immigration for law firm Gardere Wynne Sewell, said in a recent IT Business Edge interview that the current shortfall of H-1Bs, evidenced by the early run on the documents at the outset of the filing season on April 1, is "the typical lagging behind the economy on the part of the government."


Companies that want a shot at the visas for the upcoming year should plan to file in the first half of April, Plumlee said. She also recommends "meticulous" preparation of H-1B applications.


To read the entire interview with Plumlee, click here.