Google loses in H-1B lottery as Congress gets new visa push

U.S. senators who are pushing a bill to give foreign nationals who earn advanced degrees in the U.S. permanent residency

The effort in Congress to make it easier for tech companies to hire foreign nationals gained support Thursday from two U.S. senators who are pushing a bill to give foreign nationals who earn advanced degrees in the U.S. permanent residency.

The latest measure comes as one large tech employer, Google, complained, publicly, that 90 of its 300 H-1B applications were rejected in the government lottery for visas. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held a lottery after receiving 163,000 applications for 85,000 visas. That figure includes 20,000 visas set aside for advanced degree holders.

[ InfoWorld editor at large Ephraim Schwartz stands as an eyewitness to H-1B scammers. ]

The Senate legislation, unveiled Thursday by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), will allow foreign national graduates of U.S. universities to receive Green Cards, or permanent resident status -- as long as they have a job offer.

Details about the legislation were not immediately available, but the Senate measure is a companion bill to legislation already introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 6039 by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, (D-Calif.), a spokesman for Boxer's office said Thursday.

These two bills would exempt STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) advanced degree graduates from the annual 140,000-person limit on permanent residency, employer-based visas.

"Ensuring that the U.S. is competitive in technology means making sure that future innovators are putting their knowledge to work here, not competing against us abroad," said Boxer, in a in a statement. "The best way to do that is to offer Green Cards to those foreign graduates with career opportunities in the U.S."

Although there is bipartisan support for increasing the H-1B visa cap, those efforts have been stymied by the legislative deadlock over broader immigration reform. As a result, supporters are focusing on the Green Card limits and advanced degree holders, where presumably they can make the strongest case for keeping these workers in the U.S.

Keith Wolfe, Google's global mobility manager and Pablo Chavez, its senior policy counsel, provided some insight Thursday on the company's public policy blog about its experiences with the H-1B cap.

Google submitted 300 H-1B applications this year, "and we're sorry to report that 90 hopefuls were denied," they wrote on the blog.

It was unclear whether those workers would be denied any job at Google or just U.S.-based jobs. Ask to clarify that point, a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail: "As a company with a global presence, we're fortunate enough to be able to have employees work for us in other countries if they're not permitted to stay in the U.S. That said, many of our core products are created and improved upon here. We also believe that worker satisfaction is higher when employees can work in the location they prefer."

Wolf and Chavez defended Google's hiring of H-1B workers. "Although we're committed to hiring outstanding American candidates, Google hires employees based on skills and qualifications, not on nationality. Many times our strongest candidates are Americans; in fact, about nine out of 10 of our U.S.-based employees are citizens or permanent residents. But if we're to remain an innovative company -- one that is creating jobs in the U.S. every day -- we also need to hire exceptional candidates who happen to have been born elsewhere."

Google received more than 1 million resumes, Wolfe and Chavez wrote on their blog.

Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.

This story, "Google loses in H-1B lottery as Congress gets new visa push" was originally published by Computerworld.