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The US is prepared to slash the number of H-1B visas issued annually, as a sour economy has the government concerned about hiring foreign tech worker help.

Unless some lobbying groups step up their pitch to sway Congress before Oct. 1, the annual limit on H1-B visas will plummet to 65,000. This is a massive drop from the 195,000 visas that have been available in recent years. The slumping tech economy is one of the main reasons for the cut, as legislators hope companies will hire unemployed US workers before looking for foreign talent.

During the tech boom, Congress raised the number of H1-B visas to answer calls from vendors and industry trade groups. They argued that the US needed outside smarts to remain competitive in technology. Foreign workers were seen as one of the major answers to a labor crisis. The H1-B visa limit rose from 65,000 to 115,000 for two years and then to 195,000 since 2001.

New data, however, shows that the number of H1-B visas used up by tech workers has been declining for some time. Tech workers accounted for 105,692 H1-Bs in 2001 but only 27,199 in 2002, The Mercury News reports.

With tech companies tending to send more and more work offshore, it's no surprise that many US workers react harshly against the H1-B visas totals. Some experts, however, warn that it's a mistake to turn foreign workers away. They argue that the US will be missing out on some top talent should the economy improve. ®

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