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H-1B Freeze Garners Mixed Reaction In India

BANGALORE, India - A U.S. decision to stop issuing H-1B high-tech visas until October is being criticized here as protectionist.

The U.S. move is "against the spirit of free trade" by India's software industry association, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom).

Leading software export companies have shrugged off the move since they already have enough H-1B visa-holding engineers to complete projects over the next few months.

The stoppage was announced earlier this week by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which said it had reached its annual limit for H-1B visa applications. The program is designed to attract skilled workers to the U.S. to fill open positions. The USCIS said the number of applications would be enough to meet the recently lowered limit of 65,000 H-1B visas for fiscal 2004 ending on Sept. 30. The processing of new Visa applications for the next fiscal year will begin in April 2004.

The U.S. decision comes as Indian software exports are growing in response to the improving global economy, especially the U.S. its main market.

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