Poof! h2-B Visas Gone

There they go. Again.

The allotment of 65,000 h2-B visas for 2007 is already gone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).

The visas — highly favored by the technology industry — are for foreign nationals with advanced degrees in science, engineering and technology to work in the United States for up to six years.

Tech claims there are not enough qualified Americans to fill all the available jobs and h2-B visas help bridge that gap. Critics such as the Programmers Guild and labor unions claim U.S. tech firms use the visas to hire foreign talent at lower wages than U.S. IT workers.

The announcement by the CIS represents the third consecutive year and the eighth time in the last 10 years the allotment of H-1B visas has been used up before a federal fiscal year begins.

“Hitting the H-1B cap four months before the start of the fiscal year is a clear sign that the visa process for highly educated workers is broken, and must be reformed this year,” Lynn Shotwell, executive director of the American Council on International Personnel, said in a statement.

In late May, the U.S. Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill that included in its 600 pages a provision to raise the current 65,000 annual cap on h2-B visas to 115,000.

The bill also provides that immigrants with certain advanced degrees would be exempt from the h2-B visa cap. That quota could rise by as much as 20 percent per year depending on labor market demands.

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