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Group wants H-1B visa exemptions

Compete America argues that foreigners who have earned masters and doctorate degrees from U.S. universities should be exempt from the program's cap.

A coalition that includes businesses and trade associations on Wednesday asked Congress to reform the H-1B visa program, arguing that foreign nationals who have earned masters and doctorate degrees from U.S. universities should be exempt from the program's annual cap. In February, the government said it had received enough applications to reach this fiscal year's cap of 65,000 visas, which allow skilled workers to remain in the country for up to six years. According to the Compete America coalition, the reform is vital for American employers to remain competitive. The group said that in the physical sciences and engineering, nearly 50 percent of all masters and doctorate degrees awarded by U.S. schools are earned by foreign nationals.

Critics of the H-1B program argue that highly educated U.S. workers are available for jobs and that the visas fuel the shift of technology work offshore. Already, there are some exemptions to the cap.