Mar 8, 2007

Bill Gates Slams US Visa policy. More H1-B?

Slamming American immigration policies, Microsoft Chairperson Bill Gates has said the US was shutting the door on the best and the brightest at a time when the country needed it the most. Gates, one of the most vocal in the industry to constantly plead for an increase in skilled worker visas, told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions that the United States must also come to terms with the issue of permanent residency over and above what it intended to do with the H1B visas.

The Senate panel headed by Senator Edward Kennedy was focused on Strengthening American Competitiveness for the 21st century with Gates as the principal witness.

The Microsoft chairperson slammed the visa policies that have now come to heavily restrict foreign-born US college graduates from working in the US and limit citizenship or permanent residency opportunities for scientists and engineers.

It makes no sense to tell well-trained, highly skilled individuals-- many of whom are educated at our top universities -- that they are not welcome here. We have to welcome the great minds in this world, not shut them out of our country,” Gates said.

Unfortunately, America's immigration policies are driving away the world's best and brightest precisely when we need them most,” he went on to say. He also made the point that if the federal government did not make it easier for foreign scientists and engineers to obtain permanent US residency, the talent would flow to India and China.

Gates was especially critical of the manner in which the United States has gone about the H1B visas that has come down from a high of over 200,000 in the 1990s to about 65,000 in present times and efforts to step up the numbers have failed. "Scientists like Albert Einstein were born abroad but did great work here because we welcomed them," Gates said. "The contributions of such powerful intellects have been vital to many of the great breakthroughs made right here in America."

He pointed out that the allotments of 65,000 H1B visas in 2007 ran out some four months before the year began and for 2008 the allotments will be exhausted before graduation ceremonies. Gates also called for simplification of procedures to obtain permanent residency or the so-called Green Card. “We should expedite the path (for foreign workers) into our workforce and into permanent resident status,” he went on to say.

Here's Amul Butter's take on Bill Gates Generosity.