The United States economy could be missing out on highly-educated, skilled foreign employees because of a temporary work visa process that is seen as inflexible and burdensome. Some critics have called for reform, saying that qualifying for the H-1B visa, which authorizes temporary work status to foreign workers for certain occupations, involves too much time and trouble filling out paperwork then waiting.
The sponsoring employer must file a lengthy petition and paperwork regarding labor conditions. Then, they must show that the foreign worker holds, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. In addition, the specific job the worker plans to enter must fall into a “specialty occupation” category. Examples include architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts.
Even if these requirements are met, a temporary work visa is far from guaranteed; the number of H-1B visas awarded annually is capped at 65,000. Commentators and politicians debate whether to update the approval process and whether to increase the cap. Until they reach consensus, however, completing the H-1B petition and receiving approval will be an uphill battle for employers and prospective employees.
Drop in Petitions Filed Linked to Burdensome Process
Historically, the H-1B visa has been in high demand. According to foreign affairs commentator James P. Dougherty, as recently as 2008, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reached the 65,000-visa cap in one day. In 2011, that number dropped to only 16,500 petitions filed. This decline in interest is an indication that employers and foreign employees need assistance navigating the visa process.
In an essay for CNN, Dougherty wrote that the U.S. visa system is often perceived as unfriendly, long and unpredictable. Reform, he said, will spur innovation. Efforts to simplify and speed up the petition process could lead to more U.S. employers bringing in well-trained, intelligent workers to boost their companies and in turn, the national economy.
Employers and foreign workers seeking an H-1B visa should consult with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer to ensure that they meet all requirements and that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly and on time. To prevent delay and take advantage of employment opportunities, those seeking authorization as a temporary worker should contact a skilled immigration attorney to be sure that the visa petition complies with the government’s requirements.