WBEZ | visas http://www.wbez.org/tags/visas Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Study finds ample U.S. graduates to fill STEM jobs http://www.wbez.org/news/study-finds-ample-us-graduates-fill-stem-jobs-106847 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_RMTip21.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As Congress considers <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/686529-immigration-border-security-economic-opportunity.html" target="_blank">a makeover of the country&rsquo;s immigration policies</a>, they&rsquo;ll discuss an expansion of the H-1B temporary visa program for high-skilled foreign nationals. The H-1B program is popular among employers, including several in Illinois, who have long asserted that U.S. colleges and universities are not producing enough graduates in the science and technology fields.</p><p>But <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/bp359-guestworkers-high-skill-labor-market-analysis/" target="_blank">a new study from the Economic Policy Institute</a>, a Washington-based non-profit which receives about 30 percent of its funding from labor unions, finds that there are more domestic graduates in those fields than the market can accommodate. The study looks over time at domestic graduates in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM), as well as temporary guest worker inflows on the H-1B, L-1, and Optional Practical Training visas, where large shares of visa holders work in IT jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;There are, as we found before, a large supply of STEM graduates,&rdquo; said Hal Salzman, a professor at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the report. &ldquo;We just can&rsquo;t see in the numbers a failure of U.S. colleges and universities to produce sufficient supply,&rdquo; he said. Salzman co-authored the paper with professors Daniel Kuehn of American University and B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University.</p><p>H-1B workers account for thousands of jobs in Greater Chicago, which historically <a href="http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/2011AR_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">has been one of the top five hubs in the nation for workers on that visa</a>. In federal fiscal year 2011 more than 11,000 skilled workers came to Chicago on H-1B visas, with India-based IT consulting company Infosys employing nearly one in ten of them as computer programmers. Suburban Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg also accounted for an additional 4,300 H-1B workers. Average wages for H-1B workers in these cities ranged between $63,000 and $69,000.</p><p>The study finds that the domestic supply of students in STEM fields responded to industry demand as expected during the 1990s and into the early 2000s, but that a shift occurred in 2004 when companies began shifting their search for talent overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look at what happened in the lead up to the dot-com bubble to the peak, you can see that wages rose steeply, unemployment was fairly low, right up until the 2001 peak, and the result was that the number of students pursuing computer science overall doubled,&rdquo; said Salzman, &ldquo;it seems that students are very responsive to market signals.&rdquo;</p><p>The authors find, however, that after the recovery from the dot-com recession, employment in the IT sector began picking up, but wage growth did not resume. They attribute this to an increasing reliance on foreign workers for those jobs. &ldquo;The guest worker supply, understandably, coming from low-wage countries, is very plentiful, (and) will continue almost despite whatever wage levels are here because they&rsquo;re still better than what (they) would be in their home country,&rdquo; said Salzman.</p><p>One result of the divergence between demand and wages for IT workers, said Salzman, is that many American STEM graduates are opting to work in other fields. The study finds that one-third of computer science graduates and nearly half of engineering students fail to go into jobs related to their degrees because they couldn&rsquo;t find jobs, or because they felt they had better career prospects in other fields.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s basic Econ 101,&rdquo; said Salzman. &ldquo;If you bring in a lot and flood the market, it depresses wages (and) lowers job quality. And we&rsquo;ve certainly seen that in interviews we&rsquo;ve done over the years, where people think what used to be good jobs, particularly in IT, are no longer high-quality jobs. They think they&rsquo;re unstable, wages have not gone up and they counsel their kids to go elsewhere.&rdquo;</p><p>The STEM report comes as Congress picks over a proposed new immigration overhaul. The legislation by the so-called Gang of Eight would dramatically expand employers&rsquo; access to skilled, temporary foreign workers, while also imposing additional controls. The H-1B visa program, currently capped at 85,000 visas annually for highly-educated foreign nationals, would over time grow to 180,000 visas. It would also prohibit large companies from staffing more than half of their workforce with H-1B visa holders, and would require companies to pay higher wages to those workers.</p><p>Very few legislators in Washington question the assumption that U.S. companies have been unable to locate qualified, STEM-educated American workers. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/south-asians-track-proposal-worker-visa-program-105186" target="_blank">Two separate bills</a> proposed in the Senate in recent months have both looked at increasing the H-1B cap. Large companies such as Microsoft have been particularly vocal about the need to change immigration policies to allow for more temporary, skilled workers.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think the argument here is that foreign workers aren&rsquo;t good or they aren&rsquo;t productive,&rdquo; said Lowell. &ldquo;I think the argument is yeah, I think we want foreign workers we want employers to have access to, but the question really is, in what amount, and is more better?&rdquo;</p><p>Lowell and the other study authors said the devil will be in the details of any changes to immigration policies. They point out that while the immigration bill does propose higher wages for H-1B workers, it would still allow these workers to be paid 20 percent less than the average wage for those industries.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-finds-ample-us-graduates-fill-stem-jobs-106847 Temporary business investors worry immigration bill leaves them out http://www.wbez.org/news/temporary-business-investors-worry-immigration-bill-leaves-them-out-106685 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Korean E-2s.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Jong Sung Kang looks like he&rsquo;s been cooking all his life. At his restaurant in a nondescript Schaumburg strip mall, Kang chops refrigerated pork, washes dishes, and tosses vegetables onto a large stove with great efficiency. But in fact, Kang has only had this restaurant for eight months. It&rsquo;s his second business in the U.S. -- the first was a nail salon that he and his wife opened in 2005, soon after they arrived from their native South Korea.</p><p>&ldquo;The business was pretty good,&rdquo; he said through a translator, &ldquo;so we managed to live with no difficulty. But since the economy went down, it&rsquo;s really tough.&rdquo; Kang said business started slowing down about two years ago. &ldquo;We couldn&rsquo;t make money, so actually my wife went to a different shop to work and make some money,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and we used that money to pay our employees at our own nail salon.&rdquo;</p><p>Kang says any rational businessman would have sold that salon, but he couldn&rsquo;t because his family&rsquo;s legal status in the US depends on maintaining his own business.</p><p>Discussion leading up to the introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. Senate early Wednesday has largely focused on disagreements over a pathway to citizenship for people here illegally. But there&rsquo;s concern over whether it&rsquo;ll address those immigrants like Jong Sung Kang who are here legally, awaiting permanent status. In some cases, he and other immigrants on temporary visas have poured vast sums of personal money into the U.S. economy in the hope that eventually, they&rsquo;ll be given a pathway to citizenship.</p><p>Kang&rsquo;s family came to the U.S. after his sister-in-law sponsored them for a green card. He said he knew that the petition for a family reunification visa could take more than a decade to be processed. But they would be processed faster if his family were already living in the U.S., rather than waiting in South Korea. So Kang opted to bring his wife and then-five -year-old son to the U.S. on a temporary worker visa known as the E-2 Treaty Investors visa.</p><p>&ldquo;Before the time comes for my [family reunification] visa I want(ed) to adjust my life into the new situation, so that&rsquo;s why i chose the E-2 visa,&rdquo; Kang said.</p><p>The U.S. issued about 30,000 E-2 visas last year, almost 45 percent of which went to foreigners from Asian countries. It&rsquo;s a two-year, temporary visa for people from<a href="http://travel.state.gov/visa/fees/fees_3726.html"> any of the eighty countries</a> with which the U.S. has commerce and navigation treaties. It requires the visa holder to put substantial personal savings into a business. As long as they keep the business going, they can renew their E-2 visas indefinitely.</p><p>Kang estimates he poured about $300,000 into maintaining his legal status here: half of it to open the nail salon; $80,000 to open the restaurant; $17,000 to acquire and renew the E-2 visa; and additional money just for day-to-day survival. He said his considerable savings came from selling his home in Seoul, South Korea.</p><p>Like many other immigrants who are sponsored by their family members, Kang doesn&rsquo;t know how much longer he&rsquo;ll have to keep throwing money into this pit, because he doesn&rsquo;t know when his green card will come: it could be years. Still, he says he doesn&rsquo;t regret his decision to come to the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not easy to live here, but I (would) still like to live here,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The U.S. has a better education system, better environment. So, you know, I would like to stay here.&rdquo; But some wonder whether the U.S. is doing itself a disservice by allowing these temporary investors to tread water indefinitely.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the E-2 visa is a good example of a true entrepreneurial visa,&rdquo; said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer and professor at Cornell Law School.&nbsp; &ldquo;We should try to make it easier for people who want to do that to come to the United States more easily in the future, and to be able to get a permanent green card.&rdquo;</p><p>An outline of the immigration bill does propose easing the way for entrepreneurs, but Yale-Loehr says lawmakers often only think about people in high-tech industries rather than the owners of nail salons or restaurants, like Kang.</p><p>&ldquo;We spent tons of money to keep our status,&rdquo; said Kang. &ldquo;Right now people are talking about immigration reform and people are talking about a pathway to citizenship. I understand that, but also there should be a way to support people like me waiting in line for (a) decade.&rdquo; At the very least, Kang hopes a new bill won&rsquo;t make things any harder for his family.</p><p>In the meantime, he says he&rsquo;ll keep trying to turn a profit and renew his E-2 visa until he gets a green card.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau Reporter. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 10:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/temporary-business-investors-worry-immigration-bill-leaves-them-out-106685 American employers jockey for skilled, foreign workers http://www.wbez.org/news/american-employers-jockey-skilled-foreign-workers-106551 <p><p>For the first time since 2008, the number of petitions to bring in skilled, temporary foreign workers has reached its cap within the first week of taking applications.</p><p>Employers wishing to sponsor professionals in fields such as IT and engineering for the 2014 federal fiscal year started filing visa petitions last Monday.</p><p dir="ltr">The U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration services issues up to 85,000 H-1B visas per year. Within five days of opening the application window, USCIS had received about 124,000 petitions. &ldquo;I mean, this hasn&rsquo;t happened since 2008, where I think it took one day to reach the cap back then,&rdquo; said Marilu Cabrera, spokesman for USCIS. &ldquo;Last year it took about 73 days, and for the past few years it&rsquo;s been taking much longer. So this is definitely news for us.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Many see the increased demand as a sign of economic recovery, but critics of the program say it allows companies to bypass skilled American workers for cheaper foreign labor. Under federal law, H-1B sponsors are required to pay workers the prevailing wage within their industry. However, employers may choose from four tiers of pay within those categories, and some contend that the majority of employers only pay H-1B workers at the lowest levels allowed.</p><p dir="ltr">USCIS will use a lottery to decide which petitions are accepted.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>&mdash;Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 08 Apr 2013 17:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/american-employers-jockey-skilled-foreign-workers-106551 U.S. demand for high-skilled, foreign workers up http://www.wbez.org/us-demand-high-skilled-foreign-workers-106398 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/H1Bs_130401_oy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The opening of the filing period for petitions to bring specialized, educated employees through the H-1B visa program begins Monday, and after years of lagging interest in filling high-skilled jobs with temporary, foreign workers, many anticipate that U.S. companies have found their footing well enough to compete for these specialized employees. Successful petitions will authorize a foreign national to start working at a U.S. company temporarily during the 2014 federal fiscal year, which starts in October of 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This&rsquo;ll be the first year in a long time that we anticipate that the cap is going to be reached in the first week in April,&rdquo; said Eldon Kakuda, an immigration attorney at the Chicago-based law firm Masuda, Funai, Eifert &amp; Mitchell. The U.S. sets a limit of 85,000 H-1B visas every year, a cap that was quickly reached within the first week of accepting petitions in years prior to 2009. In the last four years, however, U.S. employers filed far fewer petitions, sometimes taking up to nine months to reach the limit. &ldquo;I do think it&rsquo;s a strong indication that our economy is on the upswing,&rdquo; said Kakuda.</p><p dir="ltr">H1-Bs typically work in the so-called &ldquo;STEM&rdquo; fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, and between 2000 and 2009 nearly half of those visas went to Indian nationals. The program is meant to help companies that can&rsquo;t find U.S. employees with the requisite skills or experience. &ldquo;There are not enough US citizens or Americans available with IT skills in the country,&rdquo; said Shoji Mathew, President of the North American Association of Indian IT Professionals.</p><p dir="ltr">But Mathew said small companies with 50-150 employees are nervous to file petitions this year, because of the possibility that Congress will change the H-1B program. In particular, the <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s600is/pdf/BILLS-113s600is.pdf">H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2013</a>, introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would limit the number of H-1B employees in a company of at least 50 people to 50 percent. It would also enact more rigorous compliance audits with the program, and set a wage level for H-1B workers that is higher than what most employers currently pay foreign nationals on those visas.</p><p dir="ltr">Mathew said many of the small companies have started the application process for H-1B petitions, but are nervous about completing paperwork before legislators finish their work. &ldquo;What happens if a company has 250 employees and, say, 80 percent is H1Bs?&rdquo; asked Mathew. &ldquo;They say why we should we apply for H1B (when) they&rsquo;re on the verge of laying off their employees?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But some hope that the bill will pass, citing suspected abuses of the H-1B program. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a huge demand for underpaid workers through this program,&rdquo; said Daniel Costa, an immigration policy analyst with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Costa said that though federal law requires employers to pay H-1B workers at a prevailing wage, the law gives pay scale options depending on the profession. &ldquo;And the vast majority of the time they choose the lowest wage or the second-lowest wage, both of which are below the average wage,&rdquo; said Costa.</p><p dir="ltr">Costa added that the bill would close some loopholes in the H-1B program, while giving U.S. workers a fair shot at those jobs by requiring employers to post job openings on the Department of Labor&rsquo;s website, for all interested candidates to see. &ldquo;We need to recruit and get and retain the best and brightest workers, especially in these STEM fields,&rdquo; said Costa, &ldquo;But there&rsquo;s no evidence that we have some huge shortage. There&rsquo;s always going to be a need for the workers, but we should just have some really basic protections in place for U.S. workers.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/south-asians-track-proposal-worker-visa-program-105186">Washington lawmakers are considering a separate, bipartisan bill</a> to expand the number of H-1B visas.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. You can follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/us-demand-high-skilled-foreign-workers-106398 Attorneys steer undocumented clients away from a citizenship path http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-steer-undocumented-clients-away-citizenship-path-105891 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP55053942139crop.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 246px; width: 350px;" title="Immigrants take the U.S. oath of citizenship during a Jan. 28 naturalization ceremony in Irving, Texas. (AP/File)" />Some immigration attorneys say they are steering most undocumented clients away from a citizenship path created in the name of &ldquo;family unity&rdquo;&nbsp;by President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m telling most folks to wait and see how the rule is implemented before applying,&rdquo; veteran Chicago immigration lawyer Royal Berg said.</p><p>&ldquo;Any information the applicant gives to the government can be used against the individual,&rdquo; Berg added, &ldquo;and could result in the applicant being deported.&rdquo;</p><p>The Department of Homeland Security laid the path in a rule that took effect Monday. The rule enables eligible undocumented immigrants to receive a &ldquo;provisional unlawful presence waiver,&rdquo; known in some quarters as a PUP waiver, before leaving the United States to attend visa interviews at an American consulate in their country of origin.</p><p>To qualify for the waiver, according to the department, an applicant must be inadmissible to the United States &ldquo;only on account of unlawful presence.&rdquo; The immigrant must also show that going abroad and getting stuck there would create &ldquo;extreme hardship&rdquo; for a U.S. citizen spouse or parent.</p><p>Since 1996, the federal government generally has required visa applicants to wait 10 years outside the United States if they have spent more than a year in the country without authorization.</p><p>The administration proposed the rule last April at the urging of immigrant advocates. After receiving some 4,000 public comments about it, the department published the final version January 3.</p><p>Some immigration lawyers see the rule as a potential boon to mixed-status families.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re cautiously optimistic that this will be one way in which families can be reunified more quickly,&rdquo; said Lisa Koop, managing attorney of the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, whose clients include many Mexican nationals. &ldquo;If you get the provisional waiver granted, you can go down to Mexico with some assurance that at least that ground of inadmissibility has been waived and you should be allowed to come back in.&rdquo;</p><p>A statement by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS agency receiving the applications,&nbsp;says it &ldquo;does not envision&rdquo; placing PUP waiver applicants in removal proceedings. But&nbsp;the Obama administration has made no promise that information gleaned from applications&nbsp;will not lead to any deportations.</p><p>Chicago immigration attorney Kevin Dixler sees other risks. He said PUP waivers would not ensure that immigrants could return to the United States&nbsp;if they had committed certain crimes in this country or &ldquo;falsely represented themselves to get a job.&rdquo;</p><p>Berg says he is advising clients to explore other options, including applying for work papers and a deportation reprieve under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy the Obama administration initiated last year. &ldquo;DACA is safer, quicker and less expensive, and leads to work papers without leaving the country,&rdquo; Berg said.</p><p>DACA has its own downsides for applicants, Koop pointed out. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not permanent,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a quasi-legal status that they&rsquo;re in for two years. Whereas, if they go through consular processing, when they come back into the United States they&rsquo;re lawful permanent residents, which means they have their green card and, in [a few] years, will be eligible to apply for citizenship.&rdquo;</p><p>Among other qualifications for the PUP waiver, an immigrant must be at least 17 years old, must be physically present in the United States, and must not be in deportation proceedings.</p><p><em>Follow <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 04 Mar 2013 18:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-steer-undocumented-clients-away-citizenship-path-105891 U.S. rule to help thousands of Illinois immigrants http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration/us-rule-help-thousands-illinois-immigrants-104663 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Janet_Napolitano_cropscale.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 212px; width: 300px;" title="Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the change, which will shorten the path to lawful status for some foreign nationals who lack documents to be in the United States. (AP/file)" />In the name of family unity, the path to lawful status is about to get shorter for some immigrants who are in the United States illegally &mdash; including thousands of Illinois residents.</p><p>A rule that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Wednesday helps those who can show that separation from an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen would create &ldquo;extreme hardship.&rdquo; Starting March 4, the immigrants can apply for a U.S. visa without risking a long wait outside the country.</p><p>Since 1996, the federal government generally has required visa applicants to wait 10 years outside the United States if they have spent more than a year in the country without authorization.</p><p>President Obama&rsquo;s administration says it received more than 4,000 public comments about the rule after proposing it last April.</p><p>&ldquo;This final rule facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa,&rdquo; Napolitano said in a statement.</p><p>Immigrant advocates applauded the change.</p><p>Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, pointed out that the applicants would still need to leave the country to get the visa. &ldquo;But they could [return] to the United States in a matter of weeks as opposed to years,&rdquo; said Tsao, who helped gather comments supporting the rule.</p><p>Asked whether the rule would amount to a pardon for living in the United States without authorization, Tsao pointed to existing law: &ldquo;People who are married to &mdash; or parents of, or children of &mdash; U.S. citizens already qualify for lawful status.&rdquo;</p><p>To qualify under the rule, according to a Department of Homeland Security statement, an applicant must be inadmissible to the United States &ldquo;only on account of unlawful presence&rdquo; and must demonstrate that getting stuck outside the country would lead to &ldquo;extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent.&rdquo;</p><p>The Obama administration, without Congress, has recently helped other immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Under a program initiated last year, thousands who were brought to the country as children have received work papers and a deportation reprieve.</p></p> Thu, 03 Jan 2013 00:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration/us-rule-help-thousands-illinois-immigrants-104663