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February 2, 2009 6:12 AM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
Microsoft urged the government to "remove caps that bar entry into the U.S. by high-skilled immigrants," about three weeks before announcing its first companywide layoff, according to a report in BusinessWeek.
The request, part of a policy brief written in June 2008 and posted to the Obama-Biden Transition Project Web site in early January, does not represent a new stance for the company, which has long lobbied for changes in U.S. immigration policy around high-skilled workers. But its posting on the new administration's transition Web site came at a sensitive time, against the backdrop of layoffs -- which hit a "significant number" of guest workers at the company -- and pressure on Microsoft by Sen. Chuck Grassley to retain U.S. citizens over similarly qualified guest workers.
The Obama Administration's transition Web site is no longer active, but here's a PDF (2 pages) of the brief, which also asks for changes in the student visa policy to encourage foreign students educated here to stay and an increase in green cards.
Microsoft argues that allowing more people to enter the country on H-1B visas would "enable U.S. employers to maintain development work and other critical projects here in the U.S. This can also drive domestic job growth as companies work to fill related management, design, and business positions in the U.S."
Further, the company argues that people working in this country on H-1B visas should not be considered temporary.
"The reality for Microsoft and many other U.S. employers is that the H-1B visa program is temporary only in the sense that it is the visa used while efforts are undertaken to make our H-1B holders -- whether educated in the U.S. or abroad -- permanent U.S. residents. Rather than pretend that we want these highly skilled, well trained innovators to remain for only a temporary period, we should accept and indeed embrace the fact that we want them to become permanent U.S. residents, so that they can drive innovation and economic growth alongside America's native born talent."
Update, 10:02 a.m.: The San Jose Mercury News takes a look at the unique challenge laid-off H-1B workers face. While everyone feels the financial pressure to find a new job, people here on H-1B visas have to find a job within a few weeks or must leave the country under the rules of their visa.
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