Sen. Grassley Remains H-1B Visa Watchdog


The H-1B visa issue appears to be heating up again.

Microsoft's Bill Gates yesterday made his annual pilgrimage to Capitol Hill, to tell the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee that H-1B limits are discouraging talented foreign graduates of American universities from staying in the U.S., and that companies like his are having trouble finding enough qualified employees among the ranks of U.S. natives.

Among Gates' suggestions to lawmakers, reports InfoWorld:

  • Increase the current H-1B cap of 85,000 (20,000 of which are reserved for workers with advanced academic degrees).
  • Extend the 12-month period that foreign students can remain in the U.S. following their graduation, without obtaining a new visa.
  • Make it easier for immigrants to obtain U.S. citizenship.
  • Lift green card regulations that impose per-country limits on the numbers of visas allowed.
  • Improve high school curriculums in the U.S.
  • Allot more funding for government research.
  • Approve a permanent research and development tax credit.

Of course, Gates faces some questions from lawmakers. Sen Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who last spring pressed Indian outsourcing companies for more information on how they use H-1B visas and has proposed several pieces of H-1B reform legislation, sent Gates a letter (reproduced here on IowaPolitics.com) that raises a number of interesting issues.


Grassley wonders why the number of H-1B visa approvals obtained by Microsoft dropped from 3,117 in 2006 to 959 in 2007. As noted in The Economic Times, Microsoft was one of just two American companies in a list of the top 10 beneficiaries of the H-1B program in 2007. (The other was Intel, with 369 visas.)


All of the rest were either Indian outsourcing companies or U.S.-based companies with most of their operations in India. (You can compare the 2007 numbers to those from 2006, which are included in Grassley's letter.) At least the H-1B data appears to be getting a bit more transparent. As I blogged back in July, solid H-1B data seemed to be in surprisingly scarce supply.


In another letter Grassley sent to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (reproduced here on Grassley's Web site), the senator raises allegations of widespread fraud in the H-1B program, citing several examples. In the letter, Grassley says some companies are "making a commodity out of H-1B workers," which defeats the purpose of the program. He urges Chertoff to consider increasing his department's oversight of the program.