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India demanding 195,000 H-1Bs?

According to a report today in The Economic Times, India's government has made a proposal to the World Trade Organization demanding that the United States' annual cap for H-1B visas be raised sharply, to 195,000.

Currently, the annual ceiling for the guest worker visas is 65,000, along with an additional 20,000 visas reserved for foreigners with advanced degrees from a U.S. institution.

If the story in the Indian press is true, the move likely would be welcomed by U.S. employers who have pushed for more visas, but criticized by labor groups already wary of the guest worker permits.

H-1B visas, which allow skilled foreigners to work in the United States for up to six years, have long been a point of debate in the tech industry. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates stirred up the pot recently by calling for the elimination of H-1B visa caps.

From The Economic Times story: "In the ongoing WTO talks, India has made enhancement of the H1B quota as a key bargaining chip for offering concessions on market access for industrial products and farm goods, highly-placed government officials said."