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Bill To Restrict Highly Skilled Foreign Workers Could Affect Washington Tech Companies

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"Welcome at SEA" by bfishadow is licensed by CC BY 2.0

A new immigration bill introduced in Congress last week could affect technology companies in Washington state.

Companies like Microsoft and Amazon often hire through the H-1B visa program, which allows highly skilled workers to come to the U.S.

Critics of the program say that many of the immigrants who come to the U.S. on the H-1B are brought in as cheap labor to replace American workers. Now, a lawmaker from California has introduced a bill that would further restrict the number of visas given out each year.

That could be a problem in a state like Washington where there aren't enough people who can fill those jobs, according to Michael Schutzler, the CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association.

"They get brought in because they have subject-matter expertise and they're geniuses. They're not brought in because they're cheap labor," Schutzler said. "On the contrary, in the tech industry, when [people on] H-1B visas get brought in, they tend to be some of the highest-paid employees."

With fewer paths to immigration, economic development here could suffer, he said.

Tech companies have recently been calling for immigration reform to address some of these talent issues.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.
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