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H1-B visa bill sails through US Senate

Passed by 96 to one votes

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A bill to get 600,000 more work visas for high-tech foreigners sailed through the US Senate today.

The attempt to up the number of H1-B visas, outlined here last week, was passed by a vote of 96 to one in a bid to ease the sector's skills shortage. The visas will be dished out over a three-year period.

"There is overwhelming unanimity that we must act in this fashion if we are to keep our economy strong," said Senator Spencer Abraham, Reuters reported.

It is now up to the House of Representatives - without the increases the number of available visas will drop to 65,000 next year from 115,000 this year (this year's visas ran out in March).

"The short-term problem is how to fill the key positions immediately so that we don't lose opportunities to foreign competitors or so that we don't force American businesses to move offshore to where skilled workers might live," said Abraham.

But not all were happy with the outcome in Washington -Senator Harry Reid, who supported the visa bill, thought it lacked measures to benefit other immigrants. "I think the majority made a terrible mistake in that regard," he said.

Donations from high-tech companies have so far topped $12 million for Democratic candidates this year, and $10 million for Republicans. ®

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