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Will H-1B caps force the next Google to open in Vancouver?

The window for tech firms to apply for new H-1B visas opens today; Google and others say raising the annual limits is necessary to keep U.S. companies innovative.

The window for U.S. companies to submit their H-1B visa applications for next year opens today and ends on Monday. And Google's not very happy about the details.

Neither are Microsoft and other tech companies. They want the government to increase the number of visas that companies can get to hire foreign workers. More than 150,000 applications are expected to be submitted this year, more than double the annual limit of 65,000.

Most large technology companies point to hundreds of job listings that they can't fill because of the lack of qualified U.S. candidates, they say. In the long run, if they can't hire enough skilled workers here, development and engineering offices are more likely to open elsewhere: H-1B concerns already prompted Microsoft to open a new programming center in Vancouver.

Our friends at ZDNet wrote last year that at some point, tech companies are going to conclude "it's not worth the effort to hire foreigners in the U.S." In addition, a recent study concluded that insufficient quantities of visas are actually sending would-be U.S. job openings overseas (or north, to Canada).

Google will be submitting H-1B applications for about 300 people, mostly recent college or graduate school graduates, according to Pablo Chavez, senior policy counsel, and Keith Wolfe, global mobility manager.

"As a technology company, Google's success depends on its ability to attract, hire, and retain the best and brightest wherever they come from," they wrote in a post on the Google Public Policy Blog.

Last year, 248 of Google's visa applications were accepted and 70 were rejected, the post says.

"That's 70 potential U.S. employees who would be creating innovative new Google products, paying taxes, contributing to the U.S. economy, and spurring the creation of additional support jobs at Google," the Google post says.

"If Google and other American companies are unable to hire and employ in the U.S. the world's top scientists, mathematicians, and engineers--many of whom are already here studying at an American university--foreign competitors will and we will lose opportunities to create more jobs and innovate here at home," they conclude.

That's the argument Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates made to Congress last month when he asked that the H-1B visa cap be increased. "It makes no sense to educate people in our universities, often subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, and then insist they return home," he told the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee.

The tech companies have the support of some lawmakers who have proposed doubling or even tripling the cap. But the debate continues with proponents of the status quo arguing that tech companies need to be hiring more American workers instead of giving the jobs to foreigners at lower pay.

According to statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the typical H-1B holder has a bachelor's degree and is making a median salary of $50,000.'s Declan McCullagh contributed to this story.