Microsoft pitches new $10,000 H-1B visas

The company says its proposed H-1B program could fund STEM education to help U.S. students develop tech skills.

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When the recession hit in 2008, Congress and big tech employers mostly shelved the idea of creating more H-1B visas to combat what some described as a skills shortage. This year, however, proposals for overhauling work visa programs have re-emerged as demand for H-1B visas has strengthened.

The federal government begins accepting H-1B applications for the coming fiscal year on April 1. And this year, the number of applications for fiscal 2013, which began Oct. 1, exceeded the annual cap of 85,000 visas in 30 days. At the height of the recession, it could take as long as 10 months to hit the cap.

Plans to loosen visa restrictions are being put forth in Washington, including a proposal from Microsoft, whose employment circumstances have changed for the better since it laid off some 5,000 people in 2009.

Microsoft executives late last month said that the company has about 6,000 open jobs in the U.S. and is creating new positions faster than it can fill them.

In remarks delivered at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president, cited the company's workforce needs when he made a case for new types of H-1B visas and permanent employment visas.

Smith proposed that Congress should help employers find qualified workers by adding 20,000 new H-1B visas and an equal number of green cards for people with jobs tied to science, technology, engineering and math -- the so-called STEM fields.

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