Technology & Science

Google urges more foreign-worker visas for U.S.

Google Inc. has again called on the U.S. government to boost the number of foreign-worker visas it issues in order to increase the country's innovation capability.

Google Inc. has again called on the U.S. government to boost the number of foreign-worker visas it issues in order to increase the country's innovation capability.

With a deluge of applications expected for only 65,000 visas ahead of the deadline Tuesday, the United States needs to significantly increase the number of available H-1B permits, which allow foreign-born employees to work in the country temporarily, the internet company said. Otherwise, it risks having some of the world's brightest minds go to work elsewhere.

"Unfortunately, due to the artificially low cap on these visas, tens of thousands of highly skilled workers hoping to contribute to the American economy are once again likely to be sent home to work outside of the U.S, " wrote Google's senior policy counsel, Pablo Chavez, and global mobility manager, Keith Wolfe, on the company's blog.

"As a technology company, Google's success depends on its ability to attract, hire and retain the best and brightest wherever they come from. But because of limits on H-1Bs, we are regularly unable to pursue highly qualified foreign-born candidates."

Some tech companies base foreign workers in Canada

Last year, more than 150,000 applications were filed in just two days, and the government resorted to a lottery system to determine who would receive permits. Google itself received 248 visas but had 70 rejected, the executives said. The company is planning to submit about 300 applications this year.

Sergey Brin, the company's co-founder, is Russian-born. The current number of permits issued could keep people like him out of the United States, the company said.

Google has previously urged the U.S. government to reconsider its policy on H-1B visas, making the same pleas a year ago on its blog. The company is also a member of Compete America, a lobby group made up of a who's who of technology firms — including Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Cisco Systems Inc.

The U.S. Congress is looking at the problem and held hearings last month, where Microsoft chairman Bill Gates echoed Google's sentiments.

"At a time when talent is the key to economic success, it makes no sense to educate people in our universities, often subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, and then insist that they return home," he told Congress.

A bill that proposed doubling the number of visas was introduced in Congress last month, and one representative has suggested tripling the number, but the United States has yet to take firm action.

The U.S. visa issue has had a spillover effect into Canada. With many technology companies unable to import enough workers to the U.S., some have chosen to locate them nearby, in Canada. Microsoft last year opened a software-development centre in Vancouver, not far from its headquarters in Redmond, Wash.