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Google Calls for Boost in Work Visas

American technology companies will lose highly skilled foreign workers to Indian and Chinese rivals if the country's work-visa program is not fixed, a Google executive warned Congress on Wednesday.

"Simply put, if U.S. employers are unable to hire those who are graduating from our universities, foreign competitors will," Laszlo Bock, a Google vice president, said in testimony prepared for a House hearing.

Bock urged Congress to raise the annual cap on H-1B visas, which allows companies to hire skilled foreign professionals for up to six years. The cap is currently set at 65,000.

Bock, one of four witnesses scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration, said 8 percent of Google's 8,000-person U.S. work force hold H-1B visas, and that they have been instrumental in developing key products, including Google News and orkut, a social networking Web site.

While Mountainview, Calif.-based Google is adding 500 new employees every month, Bock said it is still in a "fierce worldwide competition" with Indian and Chinese companies for top engineers, scientists and mathematicians.

Technology companies have long pushed for increasing the H-1B visa cap, which has stayed relatively the same since 1990. In April, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 150,000 applications for the 2008 H-1B visas in a single day.

According to Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich, it's the first time a Google executive has testified before Congress on immigration issues.

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