This marked a definitive shift from what McCain had said while campaigning to secure his party's nomination. During the GOP Primary, McCain's support for bipartisan immigration reform had proved to be a liability within his own party.
Shellye Archambeau, CEO of software company MetricStream, told McCain she was concerned about the decline in the number of H-1B visas as well as the fact that foreign students earning graduate degrees here are leaving the US in increasing numbers.
The annual H1B visa availability has fallen by two-thirds since 9/11 attacks in United States, from 195,000 to 65,000 today.
"We should give them a diploma and staple a visa right at the same time, so they can stay," she said, prompting applause from the audience "The key point here is that immigration has fuelled the growth and innovation of this country since it was founded."
McCain expressed sympathy at the entrepreneurs' plight, asking them about the problems they face while in hiring skilled foreign workers.
Image: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (center) speaking at the discussion. To his left is Senator McCain.
Also read: 21 Indian cos among top 100 BPOs