Tag Archives: immigration

H-1B Cap Count as of July 1, 2011

As of July 1, 2011, USCIS had receipted 19,000 petitions towards the H-1B Regular Cap and 12,200 petitions towards the H-1B Master’s Exemption.

The H-1B nonimmigrant visa category allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Unless determined to be exempt, H-1B petitions are subject to either the 65,000 annual cap or the 20,000 annual cap exemption. By statute, H-1B visas are subject to an annual numerical limit, or cap, of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. The first 20,000 petitions for these visas filed on behalf of individuals with U.S. master’s degrees or higher are exempt from this cap.

America’s visa restrictions lead to reverse brain drain

Tom Brokaw submitted an excellent article on this topic March 3 on NBC. For the full report click here. 

The creator of SnapDeal is an Indian entrepreneur. SnapDeal has created 300 jobs in India — and counting. The founder of this company is Kunar Bahl. “I put my chips in the American basket and said let me try my hand here,” said Bahl, who earned an engineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a business degree from its Wharton School. But Bahl’s visa ran out, and he took his skills back to India.

Why are we losing individuals such as Mr. Bahl? He could have created those jobs in the United States. But, the H-1B is a a strange visa. The visa has a bizarre cap system—65,000 total visas with and an advanced degree exemption provided to the first 20,000 petitions filed for a beneficiary who has obtained a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

Why do we have this H-1B cap system? If the economy is shrinking we do not need a visa cap. Companies are shrinking not hiring, rendering the visa cap irrelevant. If the economy is booming, the H-1B visa cap system is actually hurting the economy in aggregate. If the economy is growing why would we turn away skilled professionals such as Mr. Bahl? Such an individual, if allowed to stay, would have created job opportunities domestically. This would have allowed the continued growth of the domestic economy. Instead, the H-1B cap system is creating reverse brain drain, as documented in Mr. Brokaw’s NBC article.

Congress should do away with the H-1B cap system. If Congress insists on keeping the cap, perhaps it should consider a dynamic cap number, rather than a static one. What I mean by a dynamic limit is that if the economy grows by a particular amount, Congress should raise the 65,000 amount based on that growth figure. We will see what, if anything, Congress decides to do.

President Obama’s latest statement on immigration at his State of the Union address on January 27, 2010

President Obama said the following on January 27, 2010: “And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system – to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations. In the end, it is our ideals, our values that built America – values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still.”

I find it interesting that the initial mandate is to “secure our borders.” U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has always received the lion share of any money allocated to immigration. This statement, therefore, is in line with policies followed by previous administrations.

President Obama has acknowledged the flaws by calling this a “broken immigration system.” But, when will we witness congressional debates on this issue? Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was rumored to introduce and hold hearings on a major immigration bill in the fall of 2009. What happened? I can think of several big ticket items that have derailed immigration reform: the economy, wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, and a lively debate over health care reform. Congressional elections will also take place on November 2, 2010. These elections will also play a big role in the timing and strategy involved in any debates over proposed immigration reform.

IMMIGRATION UPDATE

WASHINGTON-U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton today announced on November 19, 2009 the issuance of Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to 1,000 employers across the country associated with critical infrastructure-alerting business owners that ICE will audit their hiring records to determine compliance with employment eligibility verification laws.

COMMENTARY

If you are an employer, you may wonder how seriously you should take this news. My response is that you should take it very seriously. The current administration is shifting the focus away from the employee and towards the employer. My prediction is that we will see many more NOIs in the future. The White House has stated this emphasis as a main goal for immigration reform in the future. This is from the Administration’s web site:

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally: President Obama will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by preventing employers from hiring undocumented workers and enforcing the law.

Once a business receives a NOI, ICE will allow 3 business days to present the Employment Verification Form I-9. After reviewing the I-9s, ICE will give the employer 10 business days to make corrections. ICE, Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, will require employers who have knowingly hired or continued to employ unauthorized workers to do the following: cease the unlawful activity, pay a fine, or, face criminal prosecution.

ICE is aiming these audits at the following businesses: The 1,000 businesses served with audit notices this week were selected for inspection as a result of investigative leads and intelligence and because of the business’ connection to public safety and national security-for example, privately owned critical infrastructure and key resources.

As I have previously discussed, ICE will issue many more NOIs. The current 1000 issued NOIs may have such a connection to public safety and national security, but the focus of the next series of I-9s could be much broader. ICE I-9 enforcement could represent a significant obstacle for employers in the coming months.

IMMIGRATION UPDATE

Here are the most recent developments in U.S. Immigration:
1. USCIS Web Site Redesign
2. Immigration Officials Consider Fee Increases
3. No New Efforts from the White House

1. USCIS Web Site Redesign:

USCIS has redesigned its website. In addition to its bilingual features it appears to be more customer service friendly. An applicant or his attorney can now sign up to receive case updates from USCIS. You can choose to receive these updates in the form of an email or even in the form of a text message. Given that wireless customers have to pay to send and receive text messages, I would recommend using the email option for case updates.
USCIS has an FAQ for its redesigned site. Almost all of the questions and answers relate to the case update issue. If you would like to read this FAQ, you can access the following link:  ucis.gov

2. Immigration Officials Consider Fee Increases

“Alejandro Mayorkas, the new director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said during a visit to Los Angeles on Wednesday that “financial challenges” have caused the agency to consider potential fee increases but no decision has been made. The agency is facing a $118-million revenue shortfall this year in part because applications for citizenship and skilled worker visas are below projections, according to officials.”
[Source: The Los Angeles Times ]

As previously noted, the H-1B cap has not yet been met. Last year, the cap filled in the first 10 days or so of April. We are in the midst of a recession, and companies are all downsizing. So, it should come as no surprise that USCIS is losing income from reduced filings. We should also keep in mind that USCIS seems to challenge every application right now. USCIS has hired new adjudicators and the number of Requests for Evidence has skyrocketed. Companies are filing fewer applications for employees, and yet face a barrage of Requests for Evidence for applications when they do file.

This might be the real reason for the potential fee increase:
“And the agency is preparing for the possibility of legislation that could result in millions of undocumented immigrants applying for legalization, Mayorkas said. Already, he said, the agency has more than 130 support centers throughout the nation ready to accept more than 6 million applications.”
[Source: The Los Angeles Times ]

If The White House and USCIS expect 6-12 million illegal aliens to voluntarily register themselves with the agency, the government will need a lot more than increased filing fees. In my opinion, USCIS will need billions of dollars to administer this goal. After war in the Middle East, the Economic Stimulus Plan, projected costs surrounding Health Care Reform, how would the White House raise money or support for this task?

3. No New Efforts from the White House

This section is self-explanatory. Regarding immigration, the same president who tried to juggle a half dozen major policy initiatives in his first few months in office now seems unsure of his ability to — as he told Univision’s Jorge Ramos in an interview last weekend — “solve every problem at once.” [Source: CNN]

I do expect President Obama to have an outline on immigration reform before the end of the year. I am unclear as to how much momentum he would have to actually push forward this agenda in 2010.

Empty Tank for U.S. Immigration Reform?

Washington, D.C. On June 25, 2009 the President, Vice President, and key cabinet members met with a bipartisan group of Senate and House leaders representing the spectrum of opinion on immigration.

Since this time, we have had very little input on this issue from The White House. The official White House web site for immigration lists these two items as the new developments in immigration:

I was interested as to why the White House put these two items as the opening items on the web page in the “Progress” section. Are these new items or developments?

For the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, when clicking through the various links, I saw that President Obama had signed this bill on February 4, 2009. This is hardly current news.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 appears to have gone into law on January 6, 2009. The DHS web link  has a Policy and Guidance Memo dated May 15, 2009. The Recovery Act has its own web site as well.  I see nothing of note on this site for immigration purposes.

Why would the White House list these two items under the Progress section of their immigration web site? This information is both stale and dated by this point. The White House seems to want to convey a message that we are making progress on the immigration issue. However, since the June 25, 2009 meeting with Senate and House leaders I cannot find any new information on White House progress in this arena.

At the risk of sounding negative, I do not see how the Obama Administration would make any progress on immigration. The Administration has commenced the Economic Stimulus Plan. This plan requires a huge financial commitment from U.S. taxpayers. President Obama recently has geared up for an all-out battle on U.S. health care reform. If health care reform were to pass (Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives reached a deal on Wednesday July 29, 2009), this would also require another huge financial commitment from U.S. taxpayers. The U.S. still has heavy military commitments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Will the Administration have anything left in the tank for immigration? At this point, I would not bet on it. The current business immigration system has considerable flaws. We are not retaining some of the best and brightest foreign talent in our labor market. Making changes will take a broad consensus of support in both the House and Senate. After tackling the recession and health care, would the White House have enough support to make changes in the immigration system?