ID :
Sun, 09/07/2008 - 11:30
Auther :

Obama for streamlining H2B visa process

Sridhar Krishnaswami

Washington, Sept 6 (PTI) Driving home the point that he
is for creating jobs in the U.S., Democratic Presidential
nominee Barack Obama has favoured streamlining the process for
the high-skilled H2B visas for Indians and other foreigners to
make sure that employers were not "gaming" the system.

"For those who don't know, the H2B visa programme is the
programme whereby people with specialised skills, foreign
nationals with specialised skills, are supposed to be able to
come in and be sponsored by their employer. That's the idea,"
he said at a campaign event in Duryea, Pennsylvania Friday.

Noting that there are some "highly specialised" areas
meant to be covered under it, the Illinois Senator said:"Let's
say, you know, you need a nuclear physicist in a particular
area, and you just can't find one. And it turns out there's a
guy who is Indian, who fits the bill. And you've gone out and
you've tried to recruit people. ... And your business needs
this. That's what the H2B visa is supposed to be for."

However, he said, the "problem" is that if employers want
"to game the system, they might decide... We'll get a software
engineer from India, even though there are a bunch of software
engineers here... because we can pay him or her less. And that
then undercuts the labour market and wages" in the US.

Obama's remarks were actually in an obvious reference to
the H1B visa category in which software engineers would fit
into. It is unclear whether the Senator had inadvertently
strayed into the realm of H1B visas in the course of making
his thoughts on the issue known, but he made it clear he will
ensure that the high skilled visas will not be manipulated.

He was asked to comment on reports that businesses are
pressuring the Bush administration to change the ways about
determining the employment status where businesses would grant
H2B status instead of having a state agency ascertain if there
is a need.

The H-2B visa category allows U.S. employers in
industries with peak load, seasonal or intermittent needs to
augment their existing labour force with temporary workers.
Typically, H-2B workers fill labour needs in occupational
areas such as construction, health care, landscaping,
manufacturing, food service and processing and resort and
hospitality services.

"... I want to return it (H2B) to its purpose, which is
to make sure that it is only for these very specialised jobs
where there is a shortage" in the United States, Obama said.

He said it is also important to remember the fact that
U.S. really had a "shortage" of PhDs, scientists and
engineers. "We really do have a shortage of certain key
occupations that, if we want to continue to grow, we've got to
develop our kids here," Obama continued, still perhaps having
in mind the H1B visa that covers architects, engineers,
computer experts, accountants, doctors and college professors.

"We've got to make sure that they are being pushed into
the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future. And that's got
to be a group effort. The government can do some things.
Paying teachers more, giving them more support, making sure
that they're certified in the subjects that they teach, making
college more affordable. Those are all critical areas."

Obama said the U.S. has a "continual" nursing shortage,
"not because there aren't people here who could be great
nurses. The problem is we pay our nurse educators so little,
that there aren't enough slots to train the nurses that we
need. And nursing -- working conditions for nurses aren't good
enough to attract enough people into the profession.

"So we end up bringing thousands of nurses from other
countries, which by the way those countries themselves need
nurses. So they really need to be nursing back home. But the
problem is we're just not providing the incentives that are
going to create more nurses," the Democrat said.

"I want to start creating jobs here in the United
States. That's going to be my central focus when I'm president
of the United States," he said.