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Visa Addendum

December 13, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 49


Provision would grant 20,000 work visas to foreign citizens who hold U.S. graduate degrees

Foreign nationals who hold master's or Ph.D. degrees from U.S. colleges and universities will have a better chance of being granted a visa to work in the U.S., thanks to a provision included in the spending bill approved by Congress in November.

President George W. Bush is expected to sign the legislation, which would allocate 20,000 H-1B temporary work visas for foreign applicants holding advanced degrees from a U.S. institution. Visas issued under this provision would not count against the annual H-1B visa cap set by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

According to Bill Strassberger, a USCIS spokesman, details on the implementation of the provision will be finalized once the bill is signed into law. At this time, he says, it appears the legislation will cover any individual holding a U.S.-granted master’s or above degree regardless of when it was obtained.

Also, although the fiscal 2005 cap has already been reached, Strassberger says the new allocation of visas could be made available to applicants as soon as 90 days after the provision becomes law.

The number of H-1B visas issued for fiscal 2005 was capped at 65,000, the same as fiscal 2004 but significantly lower than the fiscal 2003 cap of 195,000 visas. According to D. Ronald Webb, manager of doctoral recruiting and university relations for Procter & Gamble, the drastically reduced cap has hampered industry's ability to hire much-needed talent.

"It used to be easy for us to consider a foreign national because 195,000 visas would last the whole fiscal year," he said. "The system was very user-friendly and met a business need." For fiscal 2005, the H-1B visa cap was met within weeks of the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Webb says he is pleased with the provision overall and that the additional 20,000 visa allotment "seems like a reasonable estimate"to meet recruiters' needs.



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