Study in the USA

Some in US Congress pushing to drop cap on foreign students who can find jobs in high tech

Texas Star-Telegram

[Hetal] Bhatt, who moved from India eight years ago to study at the University of Texas at Arlington, holds an H-1B visa, federal documentation that allows foreign workers with special skills like engineering to work here and, if they want, apply for permanent residency.

With the continued strain in the job market, the H-1B program has been a source of controversy, particularly among long-term unemployed workers. It hit the spotlight in January when a Fort Worth woman asked President Barack Obama in an online chat why companies are allowed to hire foreign workers while her engineer husband can't find a job....

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, told a subcommittee last year that the H-1B program plays a "vital role" in the U.S. economy, allowing companies and institutions to hire foreign students from U.S. universities who have degrees in science, technology, math and engineering.

But Smith said Congress, if it doesn't increase the cap, should examine the kinds of workers who qualify. Beyond technology, foreign workers have received H-1Bs to work in the U.S. as fashion models, dancers, chefs, photographers and social workers, he said.

"There is nothing wrong with those occupations, but I am not sure that foreign fashion models and pastry chefs are as crucial to our success in the global economy as computer scientists," Smith said.

The debate is above the pay grade for people like Bhatt, 31, who came to study in what he calls the world's finest country for engineering education. He met and married his wife, who is also from India and was getting a master's at UTA. They're both doctoral students there. Bhatt is working full time and studying part time toward his Ph.D. in traffic flow theory.

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