Grassley Amendments Worry Tech Industry

Thursday, 09 May 2013 01:11 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Changes to immigration reform that would affect highly skilled immigrants have tech companies up in arms.

The amendments, made by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, are designed to protect American workers, but Silicon Valley believes they could halt the inflow of much-needed talent because of the number of requirements that would have to be met, reports The Hill.

But Grassley says the changes to the H-1B program are needed. "The amendments do things such as requiring employers to make a good faith effort to hire qualified Americans first, and to root out fraud and abuse of the H-1B and L Visa programs," he said.

"These are common sense amendments that attempt to level the playing field."

The Senate Judiciary Committee is starting to work on the immigration bill on Thursday.

Tech companies have been lobbying Congress for several years to expand the annual cap of H-1B visas from 65,000 to 111,000 and raise the number of visas for foreigners graduating with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.

Peter Muller, director of government relations at Intel, praised the bill, but expressed concern about the Grassley amendments. "The bill itself is a very positive bill and it’s going in the right direction. There’s a few things we’re trying to improve," he said. "We’re concerned about any amendments that would take a step back on the progress the bill would make.

"At a time when there’s an effort to make this program more usable, would increase the number of H-1B visas, it would be counterproductive to put up barriers that would make it hard and impossible for companies to use that program."

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