Closed Door

CEAT Kelani Holdings Managing Director Ravi Dadlani (right) and Lanka Ashok Leyland CEO Umesh Gautham exchange the OEM agreement

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2009 (AFP) – The United States began taking visa applications Wednesday for highly skilled foreigners, with lawmakers pressing to close the door to some of the long-coveted workers amid the recession. Robert Hoffman, a vice president at software giant Oracle and co-chair of Compete America, a coalition of tech companies lobbying to hire foreigners, said the 85,000 H-1B workers would make up only 0.07 percent of the US labor force.

“It’s an easy political target,” he said. Companies can seek up to 85,000 so-called H-1B visas for the fiscal year starting in October for IT and other specialized workers.

Asians usually get some three-quarters of the visas, with Indians alone taking one-quarter.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat close to President Barack Obama, and Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said companies should need fewer visas this year as the United States suffers its worst economic crisis in decades.

“The H-1B visa was intended to be used only as a temporary measure when qualified Americans weren’t available for highly specialized jobs,” the senators said in a joint statement.

“With unemployment at rates higher than we’ve seen in decades, there is no shortage o

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