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Bill Gates's Wish Is Homeland Security's Command 374

Posted by kdawson
from the one-way-or-another dept.
theodp writes "PC World reports that DHS has extended the time foreign graduates of US colleges can stay in the country and work to almost two-and-a-half years, an 'emergency' change that drew kudos from Microsoft and other H-1B visa stakeholders. Looks like when Bill Gates says 'Jump,' the government asks 'How high?' Bill Gates's Congressional Testimony, March 12, 2008: 'Extending OPT from 12 to 29 months would help to alleviate the crisis employers are facing due to the current H-1B visa shortage. This only requires action by the Executive Branch, and Congress and this Committee should strongly urge the Department of Homeland Security to take such action immediately.' DHS Press Release, April 4, 2008: 'The US Department of Homeland Security released today an interim final rule extending the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) from 12 to 29 months for qualified F-1 non-immigrant students.'"
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Bill Gates's Wish Is Homeland Security's Command

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yep, now they can cut pay throughout the industry citing increased competition for jobs. Why should they pay you a 6 digit number when they can pay someone else a mere 5 digits.

    Acute shortage my ass.

    • by srobert (4099)
      What's worse is that the 5 digits includes the cents.
      American Nerds should rise up and revolt.
      Have Fun Storming the Castle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      your whinging because you might not get a 6 figure salary? cry me a fucking river asshole!

      show me some proof that hb-1 visa's have resulted in pay cuts, because i keep hearing people running their mouths about it but when i look at http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm [bls.gov] all i see are rising wages.

      • by KPU (118762) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:47PM (#23050780) Homepage
        Your link is a single snapshot in time which does not say anything to your claim regarding "rising wages." Further, I fail to see how rising wages would imply that H1-B has little effect on wages.
        • by timmarhy (659436)
          what did you miss the column which states the mean movement, with the 3 - .05% increases.
      • by srobert (4099) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:23PM (#23051016)
        So somewhere on the BLS webpage you see evidence that "real" wages are rising? 'Cause I don't see it in the real world. Did you adjust those figures for inflation?
        In the 50's and 60's American dads put in 40 hours a week in a factory with just a high school diploma and families lived pretty well. Moms stayed home with the kids. Now with college degrees, Moms and Dads put in 80-Plus, and can't even achieve the same living standards they had as children. (Or worse, they are another generation removed, and have no recollection of better times.) The median American wage earner has been losing ground for decades. More immigrant labor (legal and illegal) and "free trade" agreements are the threats used by the have-mores to get the have-nots to produce more and expect less.
        Question: The 40-hour work week became a standard in the early 20th century. With all of the improvements in productivity that have come about since then, why are we not now on a standard 32-hour workweek? We should have been there 20 years ago. The answer is in the failure of economics professors to teach students to think critically about supply-side economic theories.
        I'm not whining (or "whinging"). I'm pointing out that we are being skillfully played against one another and our lives could be better if we get smart enough to recognize it.
        Oh, and by the way here's the proof you asked for:
        http://www.usw.org/usw/program/content/3060.php [usw.org]

        • by SerpentMage (13390) <[ChristianHGross] [at] [yahoo.ca]> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:23PM (#23051398)
          This is political populism...

          Were the 50's and 60's better? Racism, male chauvinist oinks, and the boys club mentality... Add on the lack of being able to fly easily, travel easily, or have any luxuries.

          You know you can live like the 50's and 60's. I am serious here. Get rid of your cable subscription, your cell phone subscription, have a single car, and everything that you did not have in the 50's and 60's. And you can live quite well.

          The problem we have is that you have all of these additional costs because you want them. For example one of the things I have done away with is a cellular phone subscription. Here in Europe people look quite strange at me. I just say, "hey I hardly use it and it saves me quite a bit of money."

          The problem is not immigration. Look at the following website.

          http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=research_research05b5 [fairus.org]

          The immigration levels at the time you talk so fondly of were per-capita higher than now.

          The real problem is that due to globalization the West has to realize it is overpaid. The developing countries are just as smart and just as able, but paid less because they can be.

          Heck, I have had to take a massive pay cut so that I can compete in the market place. But I take in stride as I have to.

        • by metlin (258108) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:49PM (#23051512) Journal
          American real wages aren't rising - if anything, they are going down [nytimes.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vidarh (309115)
          You're not on a 32-hour work week because your unions have been broken. It was US unions that forced through the 40-hour workweek through decades of demonstrations, legal and illegal strikes and high risk organization work (see the employers didn't like the increasing unionization).

          Many of your union reps. and members gave their lives to secure the 8-hour day.

          To me, that is one of the things that you Americans should be most proud of, yet most of you seem to have absolutely no awareness about how much t

          • Animal Farm (Score:3, Interesting)

            by srobert (4099)
            If I had mod points, I'd mod you up. Ever read George Orwell's "Animal Farm". The pig in power manipulated history to be what he needed it to be. The less intelligent animals began to question their own recollection of events. In America today, it's not only that one generation questions the history that it lived through, but subsequent generations have had almost no exposure to it at all. It is relegated to the footnote section of historical knowledge. The 1886 Haymarket riot is an obscure event that very
    • Is it me or do F1 students from our school get most of the lucrative jobs around? I am from Georgia Tech (on an F1 visa myself - but decided to do a Masters after my undergrad) and most of the info sessions for any job seem packed with F1 students. They also get a disproportionately large number of jobs at any firm that hires them and often, get paid above the averages for their majors. In fact, all but 2-3 of the F1s I know (from about 30 odd) is working for under 60k a year and about half of them beat 70k
  • after four years in the U.S. the graduates would have a better idea about reasonable wages. Unlike H1-B, they'd not take such a wage hit. What's the advantage?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Metasquares (555685)
      They can always work here for a while, then head back home and live very well on what we would consider low pay. Not saying they would; it's just an option that domestic graduates do not have.

      Of course, inflation is making this sort of thing more and more difficult.
  • by TheKingAdrock (834418) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:44PM (#23050404)
    Bill Gates has been testifying for years, yet little has been done to increase H1-B limits. It's hardly as if anyone is acting under his control...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by NoobixCube (1133473)
      But in previous years, he didn't have the kill switch to the OS that runs the intelligence agencies! He probably threatened to deactivate their copies of Vista :P
      • I think its the other way round, he told them hed give them they key so they didn't have to keep on phoning up that Indian woman to re-licence their copies of XP
  • Yay, Flamebait! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DigitalisAkujin (846133) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:47PM (#23050420) Homepage
    Thanks for the very opinionated analysis on how apparently Bill Gates is now ordering the US government but the fact of the matter is this request was good for both parties, good for science, and good for the industry.

    Now get off my lawn!
    • Re:Yay, Flamebait! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by epee1221 (873140) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:49PM (#23050440)
      Yeah, singling out Microsoft seems a bit out of line. How about a list of other companies who supported/opposed this?
    • by Arthur B. (806360)
      Good for the students, good for the consumers...
  • Is this meant to be an acknowledgement that foreign students aren't such a threat? If so, why this particular time limit?

    Is this in spite of a perceived threat from foreign students? If so, why isn't DHS doing its job, which is security?

    If this isn't because of security, why is DHS making the call on it?
    • by hibiki_r (649814)
      Because the department that deals with immigration, USCIS, is part of DHS.

      Yes, that's how Bush decided to organize it. No, it doesn't make much sense to me, but having a department of homeland security doesn't make sense to me in the first place.
    • Re:Why, DHS? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mia'cova (691309) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:18PM (#23050596)
      They're changing because the H-1B cap is being reached now. An international student who graduates in the US no longer has a clear path to stick around and work. There's no point spending four years training someone only to kick them out when they want to stay. With 29 months, they can at least make a couple of attempts at the annual H-1B lottery.
      • by epee1221 (873140)
        Point taken, though I'd probably lean more towards a path to citizenship for those who go to school in the U.S.
        • by Mia'cova (691309)
          Sure, but the intended path is H-1B -> Greencard -> citizenship. It's by design that you can't easily obtain citizenship. That's a whole different issue.
          • It's by design that you can't easily obtain citizenship.

            All they really need to do is find an American spouse and have an anchor baby [wikipedia.org] to stay in the United States until the child reaches the age of majority, by which time the foreign spouse has long since been granted citizenship anyway. If Microsoft wants more H1B candidates to stick around then they need to encourage hookups between their American employees and their foreign H1Bs and graduate student interns.

        • Re:Why, DHS? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hibiki_r (649814) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:20PM (#23050990)
          The students would rather have an easier path to green cards, and eventually citizenship, but it's not the most popular idea among most Americans.

          We all know that most people's problem with illegal immigration and H1-Bs has nothing to do with the illegals being illegal or the H1-Bs lowering wages: It's plain old racism. Increasing the green card quotas would just bring more people with strange accents into the country, and that's not something that middle america wants.

          I for one find it ridiculous, but I see the racism every day.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:49PM (#23050438)
    Or maybe, instead of "Looks like when Bill Gates says 'Jump,' the government asks 'How high?'", it's actually "When Bill Gates identifies a real problem, the government actually considers it."

    Yes, they have access to government. No, there is no magic.
  • Disingenous tripe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:52PM (#23050456) Homepage
    Bill Gates, eh? What about all the other companies that lobbied to get this trough? IBM is one of the largest importers of foreign labor, but of course we don't want to mention that. Heck, IBM is the largest employer of L1 visa [wikipedia.org] holders. IBM uses these visas to get around the salary and posting requirements of H1-B visas. Thousands and thousands of Indians, Chinese and Russians are in the US occupying jobs under L1 visas and working for IBM and a few other companies, mostly on mid- and lower-level IT jobs that pay well but don't require high qualifications, and of which there is no shortage in this country.

    Microsoft does not use L1 visas, because they don't import cheap outsourced labor like IBM does. They are trying to bring in valuable, qualified college graduates to this country to fill higher-level positions that cannot be filled with US-based engineers because at that level, there truly is a shortage.

    But hey, this is Slashdot so we can happily spin this so that it seems Bill Gates is manipulating US immigration policies for his own benefit. That way we get another "Microsoft is teh evil" bullet point for the "advocacy" folks, and Slashdot sells more ads. Everybody wins.

    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      "They are trying to bring in valuable, qualified college graduates to this country to fill higher-level positions that cannot be filled with US-based engineers because at that level, there truly is a shortage of US engineers that will work for substandard wages, and are not willing to live with 10 other engineers cramped up in one apartment in order to save money to send home, rather than house and feed their US families in the area which they work."

      There, fixed that for ya.

      • by macshit (157376)

        You're wrong, of course. Maybe some companies do that, but MS doesn't.

        Though I hate MS as much as the next man, they seem to pay their H1B visa employees great salaries (starting salary of the H1B holders I know seems to be around $75K - $80K), and they're essentially standard employees. Yes, even those from India.

        [FWIW, I'm american, and my sole personal experience with work visas is working in other countries -- which all seem to have much more reasonable immigration policies than the U.S. does. As

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This what Microsoft has done for this country. Their software runs alot of the country, their stock is probably is many people's 401Ks. By the way, Bill Gates sometimes knows WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT. Also, this may be good for the country's economy. At least some people are trying to make concrete recommendations about how to improve the economy rather than just complain about it.

    -David Tarlow, M.D.

    dtarlow@aol.com
  • by metlin (258108) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:57PM (#23050478) Journal
    Wow, if you read all the articles linked, you'd know that it was not just Bill Gates, but others as well who testified on this subject. Secondly, a lot of companies support this, Google included. Finally, people from both parties support this.

    The majority of the people who are on OPT are folks who're in the US to go to graduate school. Rather than send them back, they are trying to extend the amount of time that they can stay in the country. How is this a bad thing?

    If anything, the number of native US candidates going to graduate school is much lesser than the number of foreign nationals coming to the US for graduate school. How is trying to retain folks who get advanced degrees a bad thing in any way?

    Finally, a lot of people with graduate degrees (i.e. majority of folks on OPT) are by no means cheap - so, the old excuse that they are being exploited etc. does not quite work here.

    Enough of the bullshit, already. A lot of folks petitioned about extending the OPT status for international students who go to graduate school in the US, and have to return because of visa policies (the H1B cap was met within a few hours last year). So, the government considered what the companies wanted and agreed to do this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hxdmp (448441)
      Hear, Hear! I don't think 90% of the /. repliers here actually read the details to have a clue on this. This applies to international students who obtained a Masters Degree (typically in Computer Science) at a U.S. University. Geez, what's the Masters Degree percentage of /. readers I wonder.... low, so they don't have a clue that an international student has to be decent to graduate. Universities don't lower their exam and degree requirements for international students.

      We need these folks to stay in th
    • Why Single Out Bill? (Score:5, Informative)

      by theodp (442580) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:11PM (#23050908)
      Granted, Microsoft is far from alone [competeamerica.org] when it comes to relying on the Visa Crutch [eweek.com]. But it was Bill Gates whose pleas were singled out by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff [flickr.com] as he rationalized the need for 'emergency' action [flickr.com].
      • by metlin (258108)
        Yes, administrator/politician uses words of a billionaire technologist to highlight an issue that needed change. Which would make sense, considering that the interests of the billionaire technologist are affected by the said issue. Not to mention that the billionaire also brings in significant amount of revenue and whose company is a core-contributor to the country's economy (if not the world's).

        What's your point?
  • Invest in America: Buy a congressman.
  • Ridiculous headline. As a H1B myself, it's great to see someone trying to improve the system, even if it is archetypal /. enemy, Bill Gates. Now we need someone to work on the crazy rule that requires me to return home to renew my visa.

    Why can't I do it from here? It's not for security reasons (I'm easier to investigate while in the US, not whilst abroad) and it's not for economic reasons (surely they'd rather I was working, instead of taking weeks off to go home and wait for a new visa), so why is it?

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:05PM (#23050526)
    Seriously, when?

    We're always hearing the employers claim that there's less H1-B Visas than jobs they want filled... how about letting supply and demand of the American workforce take over giving pay raises to nearly all of us IT workers.
    • by homer_s (799572)
      how about letting supply and demand of the American workforce take over giving pay raises to nearly all of us IT workers.

      If you are against importing foreign labor, logically, shouldn't you also be against importing foreign software?
      Buying finished software from foreign countries is just another form of outsourcing. It is actually much worse than outsourcing. After all, if importing labor is bad for the local engineers, importing software would be bad for more people than just the engineers - testers,
    • by Shihar (153932)

      ...how about letting supply and demand of the American workforce take over giving pay raises to nearly all of us IT workers.

      Good idea. Lets let supply and demand take over and restrict the flow of labor. This way, we can make it really easy for companies. You can either pay ridiculously high wages to the small US work pool, or you can simply move your easily outsourced operations over to India! Great idea. Not only does the job leave, but the guy who was going to make money, spend it in the US, and pay taxes is now elsewhere. Awesome idea!

      It is far better to keep wages at a sane level by letting the supply of workers ri

      • by mrbooze (49713) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:42PM (#23051148)
        Which small US work pool is this? I've been unemployed for 6 months, and during my job search around the Chicago area I hear the same thing from employers and recruiters: every IT job they post they get flooded with applicants. They have the freedom to be *very* picky. Don't have specific industry experience? Too bad because someone else will. Meet 95% of the skill requirements? Probably not good enough, half a dozen other applicants will meet 100%. Spent some time teaching yourself new skills? Too bad, you don't have actual job experience and a lot of other applicants do. Try to apply for a more junior position instead? Sorry, they won't even talk to you, they have enough junior applicants and don't want to take the chance you'll just jump ship if you find a better job elsewhere.

        I can't blame the employers for taking advantage of an overabundant supply to pick the best employees who they think will need the least on-the-job training, but I don't see any evidence of a so-called shortage. It's not even a salary issue, me and lots of others are perfectly willing to take a pay cut rather than not working at all, but employers are very skittish about that, I guess out of fear we'll just jump ship to some mythical better job later.

        Former co-workers in the SF Bay Area have it even worse. Hiring managers there have claimed to routinely get *thousands* of resumes for any IT job posting. People opening entry-level jobs are getting resumes from former VPs and Directors.

        I don't see where this so-called shortage comes from. Even granting that maybe me and the couple people I know are just horrible unhirable schleps, are we to believe this is true of the thousands of people trying desperately to get *any* IT job just in the SF Bay area alone?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hkrsld (829295)
      Actually until a few years ago we did have a surplus of H1-B visas. That's because the Clinton administration temporarily tripled the annual quota, and that resulting number turned out to be higher than needed. When the law expired the quota reset back to its original value, which is less than what we need.

      The situation is pretty ridiculous right now. Every year there is only one week during the whole year (first week of April) during which employers can file H1-B applications. Then a lottery decides which
      • Actually my employer prefers US citizens, then green card holders, then employees with existing temporary work visas/permits (in that order), because it simplifies the hiring process.

        As an immigrant green card holder, I'm confused - with the sole exception of security clearanced jobs (and not necessarily even then), there is, or should be, zero difference between hiring a citizen and hiring a green card holder. But please enlighten me if I'm missing something...

    • by KPU (118762)
      How did you get citizenship? Did your parents happen to be in the country at the time? What makes you deserve more pay than somebody whose parents were in another country?

      Maybe you should go back to school if you want a pay raise.
  • I'm actually surprised to see this happen. I honestly thought things would remain pretty static until we saw a new government take over. This is really great news for the US tech industry. Hopefully a sign of more change to come.

    If anyone can dig up the link. Bill Gates's full testimony that's referenced was a very interesting view. It's surprising what a wide variety of viewpoints the different members of the committee present.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:13PM (#23050576) Journal
    I still can't find a job. I'm willing to work for like 50k which is like chump change for what I can do. Oh well, some people are forced to start their own business because no one will hire them. Life could be a lot worse for me so I'm not complaining. It is just strange to put in so much work across all the years of school and not being able to land a job.
    • I don't suppose I can ask this question without making it sound like I'm being an ass about it, but what is it you do that's so valuable? What objective measure do you have that you are so valuable? I'm really curious, honest--I'm not trying to pull your chain or anything.

      Once upon a time, when $50k/yr was far more than I'd ever made before, companies were glad to hire me to write software. I think that's because they were charging the government ~$75/hr for my time, and other private companies paid ~$12
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by $criptah (467422)
      Hey dude,

      I don't know what wrong with you. I am not a doctor, but if you have good grades and you're from a good school, you should have no issues finding a job. Please notice how I say "any job."

      I went to a public school and my grades were not fantastic. I got a job. My friends who went to public schools and earned decent grades got jobs too. My friends who went to good schools and got excellent grades found decent places of employment as well. And all of this was right after 9/11 and the economic

    • by MushMouth (5650)
      Obviously 50k/year not "chump change" as you can find someone who values you at 50k.
    • by hibiki_r (649814)
      I've interviewed more than a few new hires over the years.

      First, if you are straight out of school, chances are you're not highly skilled. Have you dealt with any code bases with at least 200K lines of code? How many times have you worked in a team larger than 6?

      Then, there's the interviewing skills. I'd not hire a rookie that ever claimed that 50k is chump change for what he can do. I'd be afraid you'd jump ship in under a year, just due to attitude.

      After that, your problem might be your location. There's
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:29PM (#23050672)
    The reason that Social Security is forecast to go belly-up is because of the huge difference between the number of expected retirees (due to the baby boom) and the number of people expected to be earning a good wage in their younger years. The only fix for this that won't cost each individual taxpayer a crapload of money is to have more taxpayers.

    This is enough of a problem that immigration policy should, first and foremost, be about balancing out the population curve so that the burden per taxpayer involved in fixing Social Security is manageable (hopefully permanently, by injecting enough money so that today's taxpayers are paying for their own retirement, not that of their grandparents). The best way to do this is to expand visas for highly-skilled laborers who will earn a good wage, such as H-1B. Furthermore, it's in our best interest to convince these workers to remain in the country permanently and become citizens, rather than taking their expertise back to their countries of origin.

  • by Arthur B. (806360)
    That's great news ! Any ease on visa rules is great news. It's a shame the government prevents people from freely working in the US through the DHS.
  • Seriously, what would you rather have: A highly (they're getting degrees here) skilled worker contributing to the American economy by working here or that same worker going back to their country of origin and using their skills not only to make a foreign company richer but that same foreign nation as well. It's just easier to compete and reap the rewards if skilled people are kept here.
  • Let Everyone in! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rcallan (1256716)
    Honestly, why not, what does the US have to lose? As long as they can verify that the applicants actually have skills that are in high demand, and that these companies are willing to commit to employing them for a long period of time (say 5 years), why not let them immigrate here? What does the US have to lose?

    I'm an american "worker" and I think my job would probably be one of the first filled under such a policy. I think it would be much better to fire me and fill my job with someone who is willing to wo

  • When I first read the subject, I thought he was having people carrying Linux or Mac notebook computers detained in airports for further questioning ...
  • Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sentientbrendan (316150) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @12:13AM (#23051614)
    I'm glad that more foreign workers will be coming to the US.

    Personally, had no trouble finding a good paying job coming out of college, so I can't say I see foreign workers "stealing" American programmers jobs. I've worked with many H1-B's and the like, but I've never felt like they were unskilled people here taking my job for less money. Instead, companies tend to use their *very* limited supply of H1-B's to poach the top talent from the foreign workforce, and it has generally been a joy to work with these people.

    People have this knee jerk reaction that "them foreigners is taking our jobs." However, this is stupid when you are talking about high tech work.

    First of all, this isn't the steel industry or the construction industry. There aren't a finite number of jobs to go around in high tech. What we see is that in practice, when there are more workers than there are secure jobs in big companies, people create their own startups in new markets that the big companies are too conservative to explore, thus creating more jobs and opening up more markets.

    For all practical purposes, there are infinite jobs in the high tech industry, because it has this property of increasing the industry in size in response to excess talent.

    The other reason it makes no sense to criticize allowing more foreign workers into the country is that this is part of a larger highly successful strategy that the US has always carried out where we brain drain other countries in order to keep them from competing from us technologically.

    It isn't that there aren't any smart people India who couldn't start their own software company. It's that all of those guys get hired by *American* companies, and end up contributing to the *American* software industry instead of the native Indian one.

    Bringing the top foreign talent here, means that we have the first pick at top people that the entire *world* has to offer working for American companies, whereas everyone else has to settle for leftovers.

    If anything, the criticism that I level against the H1-B program and other temporary work pograms, is that they are temporary. We should be recruiting top foreign workers for *immigration*. Highly educated people are a *boon* to our national economy, not a drag.

    Remember, that the national economy is the big picture that the government always has to keep in sight. A rising tide raises all boats, and we can't sacrifice the common welfare because of completely unsubstantiated fears that American born programmers can't get jobs.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @12:16AM (#23051628)
    Nothing short of a miracle can improve Windows. Having more, inexperienced minimum wage programmers ain't going to help.

    The bottom line is that programmers don't *want* to work at Microsoft. They have 10,000 open positions at any given time. Ten thousand! It says something about a company when programmers would choose to be unemployed rather than work there and the only way they can anybody at all is through indentured slave visas.

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