U.S. Lawmakers Propose Revisions To Prevent H-1B Visa Misuse

Abuse of the H-1B visa program is now a national controversy. In June, the New York Times reported that H-1B visas are “being used by American employers to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor.” That abuse, which potentially threatens the future of the H-1B visa program, needs to stop, because attracting talented workers in science, math, engineering, and technology is essential for U.S. economic success and growth in the years ahead. U.S. employers who genuinely need H-1B employees are also victims of the abuse because it makes fewer H-1B visas available for their legitimate, intended purpose.

H-1B visas are designed for college-educated international employees in occupations requiring highly specialized knowledge, but only when such hiring will not depress prevailing wages. Nevertheless, in many cases, laid-off American workers have reportedly been forced to train their lower-paid foreign replacements. Companies accused of abusing the H-1B visa program include Abbott Laboratories, the health care conglomerate based in Illinois, Southern California Edison, Disney, Toys “R” Us, and New York Life.

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Loopholes in the immigrations laws are at least partially responsible for the abuse. In many cases, U.S.-based businesses that employ H-1B international workers are not even required to consider U.S. workers before hiring from abroad. Many businesses outsource the actual hiring of H-1B workers to companies like Infosys and Tata, temporary staffing firms mostly located in India.

IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR QUICK IMMIGRATION REFORM?

Comprehensive immigration reform has been stalled in Congress for several years, and there’s little hope now for any significant reform until a new Congress convenes in 2017. U.S. employers who genuinely need to hire H-1B workers should consider seeking legal advice and services from an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney who can explain the H-1B program and its requirements.

Until recently, abuse of the H-1B visa program has been overlooked by lawmakers because attention has been so focused on other immigration issues – problems with border security and the controversy over President Obama’s executive orders regarding deferred action. While lawmakers are only now focusing on H-1B visa abuse, the U.S. workers impacted by it have been silent for only one reason.

Most displaced U.S. workers had to agree not to criticize their former employers as a condition of severance pay. As explained by the New York Times in June, these “nondisparagement agreements” – gag orders, for all practical purposes – have kept laid-off employees away from the public’s attention while allowing the employers to defend their hiring procedures as legal. Technically, the employers are in fact operating within the law – they’re simply exploiting its loopholes.

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However, that’s changing. More than a dozen ex-employees at Abbott have filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging they were discriminated against because of their U.S. citizenship. Ex-Disney employees have also filed federal lawsuits charging Disney and two outsourcing firms of colluding to replace U.S. workers with foreign nationals holding H-1B visas.

Leaders of both political parties have questioned the use of nondisparagement agreements. Senator Richard Durbin, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, have both offered proposed revisions to current immigration laws that would allow laid-off U.S. employees replaced by international workers to challenge their layoffs legally.

WHAT ARE LAWMAKERS SAYING ABOUT H-1B ABUSE?

“I have heard from workers who are fearful of retaliation,” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told the New York Times. “They are told they can say whatever they want, except they can’t say anything negative about being fired.” Senator Durbin, who is from Illinois, vigorously criticized the layoffs and said that Abbott’s nondisparagement clause was “overly broad.”

Do foreign nationals participating in the H-1B visa program fill a legitimate gap in the U.S. labor force, or is the H-1B program exploited by some U.S. employers merely to save dollars at the expense of U.S. workers? That’s the concern that many are now expressing. Professor Hal Salzman, a labor expert at Rutgers University, told the Times that because of the loopholes, in the last five years, thousands of U.S. workers have been replaced by foreign nationals holding H-1B temporary visas.

Although many suspect that some U.S. businesses take advantage of the H-1B visa program simply to reduce labor costs, the Brookings Institution has published statistics demonstrating that foreign nationals holding H-1B visas, in fact, earn more than equally qualified U.S. workers in comparable jobs. Exploiting the H-1B visa program to boost the corporate bottom line is wrong, but it’s something we can all understand. Although the Department of Labor announced in 2015 that it is cracking down on U.S.-based businesses that exploit the H-1B visa program, what Congress really must do is close the loopholes that allow the abuses to continue legally.

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CAN U.S. EMPLOYERS STILL OBTAIN AND BENEFIT FROM H-1B VISAS?

Does the ongoing controversy mean that a U.S.-based business can no longer benefit from the H-1B visa program? Absolutely not. Despite the abuses, no employer in the United States has an edge over any other company in the pursuit of H-1B visas. And it’s never too early for employers to start preparing for next year’s H-1B filing period. The qualifications for H-1B visas are quite strict, and as you probably are aware, the demand for H-1B exceeds the supply.

U.S.-based employers are supposed to use the H-1B visas exclusively to hire international workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge. Raising the current cap on the number of H-1B visas that Congress authorizes each year would help close the gap between the low number of H-1B visas and the continually-expanding needs of growing U.S.-based businesses.

Stopping the abuse of the H-1B visa program is also an absolute imperative. Visas now being used by some employers simply to save money would become available to the employers who genuinely need highly-skilled international workers. International employees who receive H-1B visas must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. They are allowed to work in the U.S. for up to six years.

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Since 2005, Congress has capped the number of H-1B visas made available annually at 85,000, with 20,000 of those visas set aside for workers holding advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. H-1B visas will continue to be difficult – but not impossible – for employers to acquire until comprehensive immigration reform passes and the current abuses are ended. If you’re an employer in the United States attempting to acquire one or more H-1B visas, a Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney can handle the visa petitions on your behalf and help you to understand your legal obligations as an employer of H-1B visa holders.

A State With Some Big Changes

Ohio immigration attorney

Immigration is fundamentally changing the United States. Immigrants create businesses and jobs, pay millions of tax dollars, and bring innovative new ideas as well as their own ancient traditions. If you need any help with acquiring a visa or with any immigration-related legal matter, speak at once with a trustworthy and experienced Ohio immigration attorney. While everyone perhaps knows that border states like Texas and California are changing dramatically due to immigration, you may not know about the dramatic changes happening in Minnesota.

Over the past quarter-century, the number of Minnesotans born outside the United States has tripled. Minnesota’s immigrant communities are now an essential part of the state’s economy and a growing political force. About 68,000 Minnesotans are originally from Mexico, 84,000 are originally from Central America, and nearly 40,000 are Somalians. Others have come from Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, and scores of other nations.

About 65 percent of the immigrants in Minnesota have jobs – roughly the same percentage as U.S.-born residents, although Minnesota’s new Americans don’t make on average as much money as U.S.-born workers. The manufacturing industry is the largest employer of immigrants in Minnesota, employing about twenty percent of the state’s working immigrants. Educationally, 26 percent of the immigrants in Minnesota have no high-school diploma, but more immigrants than non-immigrants in the state have advanced degrees. Minnesota’s married immigrants have an average of 3.81 children compared to married non-immigrant Minnesotans who have an average of 2.97 children. However, immigrants are less like to own homes than U.S.-born Minnesotans. 47 percent of the immigrants in Minnesota are homeowners, while about three-quarters of U.S.-born Minnesotans live in their own homes.

The changes in Minnesota are reflective – and predictive – of the changes that are happening across the nation. If you need help obtaining a work or student visa or a green card, applying for deferred action or asylum, or becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, contact an experienced Ohio immigration attorney for any and all of your immigration-related legal needs as quickly as possible.

 

The “State” of Immigration Today

Emigration reform is stalled in Congress and has been since 2013, but states and cities have been aggressively enacting their own versions of immigration reform. In 2014, California and Connecticut moved to limit police cooperation with emigration authorities seeking to deport undocumented immigrants. In the first half of 2015, lawmakers in 46 states and Puerto Rico enacted 153 laws and 238 resolutions related to emigration. Ten other bills were vetoed by governors, and twenty are pending a governor’s signature and may be law by the time you read this. Only four states – Alaska, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Ohio – did not enact immigration-related legislation in the first half of 2015. If you are an immigrant or a U.S,-based employer who hires immigrants, and if you have any questions or concerns about how a state’s immigration laws impact you, consult at once with an experienced Ohio emigration attorney.

Many states now allow immigrants with or without documentation to obtain drivers’ licenses, in-state college tuition, and a number of other benefits. Despite these advances, many immigrants will continue to deal with the threat of deportation until action is taken at the federal level. While federal immigration reform may or may not be adopted in 2016, many immigrants need to obtain legal help now from an experienced emigration attorney. A good emigration lawyer can answer your immigration-related legal questions and provide the legal services or representation you need.

Many immigrants struggle to build hope for themselves and a life for their families in the United States. When that hope is threatened, let an experienced immigration attorney help. If you are an immigrant in the United States, don’t let your dreams die because of a misunderstanding or legal technicality. A good emigration lawyer will explain your legal options to you, will protect your rights, and will steer you through often-baffling legal procedures. If you are facing any problem with emigration authorities or with your immigration status, speak to an experienced Ohio immigration attorney right away.

An Important Fiftieth Anniversary

Columbus immigration attorneyThis year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 – also known at that time as the Hart-Celler Act – which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 3, 1965. The legislation removed discriminatory restrictions and naturalization exclusions based on national and racial origins. Lawmakers established an admissions policy with annual ceilings that encouraged family reunions and occupational preferences. While the United States has always in some sense been a “multicultural” nation, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 expanded and accelerated diversity in the United States by opening the doors to immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Middle East. Whoever you are, wherever you are, if you need help entering the United States, obtaining a U.S. visa, or if you have questions or concerns regarding U.S. emigration laws, contact an experienced Columbus immigration attorney as quickly as possible.

Since 1965, several generations of immigrants have encountered both possibilities and problems upon entering the United States. Many immigrants have been able to take advantage of the abundance of opportunities in the United States, although some immigrant groups continue to struggle with difficult challenges. Immigrants are almost twice as likely to own a business in the U.S. as someone who was born here. Immigrants are job creators, both for themselves and for others.

If you are a foreign-born individual who is seeking to work or attend school in the United States, you’ll need experienced legal help to obtain a visa and navigate the U.S. immigration system, but if nothing in your background disqualifies you, it can probably be done with an emigration attorney’s help. If you are a U.S.-based employer, in today’s global marketplace you should be working with an experienced Columbus immigration attorney who routinely advises and provides legal services to businesses that employ international workers. Every immigration process and procedure takes time, so don’t wait to make the call to an experienced Columbus immigration attorney as quickly as possible.

Helping Immigrants Stay Healthy

Columbus immigration lawyerWithout comprehensive federal immigration reform, immigrants continue to need legal assistance to achieve their goals and dreams in the United States. If you are an immigrant – with or without documentation – and you have concerns regarding visas, deferred action, or your legal status, speak at once with an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer. As the likelihood of comprehensive federal immigration reform has faded, the immigration policies of the individual states have become increasingly important. As immigrant communities grow, they require access to healthcare resources. However, for many immigrants both with and without documentation, the obstacles to health care access can include a lack of insurance coverage, difficulty getting time off work, a lack of transportation, and other barriers. A survey recently conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) takes a close look at state immigration policies and their potential impact on the health of immigrants. The researchers concluded that states play a critical role in the health of immigrants across the country.

Researchers examined specific state policies and programs including public health departments, welfare benefits, education, employment practices, and driver licensing and identification. The researchers found that California, Illinois, Colorado, and Texas foster conditions that are favorable to the health of immigrants while Ohio, Alabama, and Arizona offer a less advantageous policy environment for immigrants. More research will be required to examine the relationship between a state’s policy environment and specific health outcomes for immigrants. However, it’s clear that some states are actively taking the measures needed for healthier communities in the future, while other states are lagging.

According to the World Health Organization, broad access to health care allows immigrants “to be more productive and active contributors to their families and communities.” While improvements to healthcare and wider access are imperative, the fact remains that many immigrants are coming from locations where there’s simply no healthcare whatever or from war zones where trying to obtain healthcare is more dangerous than going without. If you are an immigrant seeking a work visa or deferred action status in the U.S., speak about your situation immediately with an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer.

From Boston To Fresno, Cities Value Immigrants

Columbus immigration attorneyWhile comprehensive immigration reform seems to be going nowhere rapidly in Washington – and even the president’s executive actions on immigration have stalled in the courts – some U.S. cities have launched their own initiatives to attract international investors and entrepreneurs to help grow their local economies. City leaders have recognized – and many have experienced – the contributions that immigrants are making in our cities. If you are an international investor or entrepreneur considering a business opportunity in Michigan or Ohio, contact an experienced Columbus immigration attorney immediately for the advice and legal services you will need. Michigan’s immigrants are already creating businesses at six times the rate of the rest of Michigan’s population. Philadelphia’s mayor, Michael Nutter, insists that immigrants are a key element in his city’s ongoing economic rebirth. A number of city governments have established programs that officially welcome and reach out to international investors and entrepreneurs, including but in no way limited to:

  • In Boston, the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians
  • The Mosaic Project in St. Louis
  • The Fresno Center of New Americans
  • The Agency for New Americans in Boise
  • New Americans Community Services in St. Paul
  • The New Americans Task Force in Lincoln, Nebraska
  • In Seattle, the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs

These outreach initiatives offer international investors and entrepreneurs the information, local contacts, and resources they need to set down roots, grow their businesses, and help their local communities flourish. For the United States to prosper in the years and decades to come, more immigration will be required, yet international entrepreneurs and investors still face the hurdles posed by our obsolete U.S. immigration system. Most immigration procedures require time and patience, so don’t delay. International entrepreneurs, investors, and highly-skilled professionals seeking to work or conduct business in the states of Michigan or Ohio should promptly arrange to obtain the legal advice and help of an experienced Columbus immigration attorney.

Contributions, Patents, And The U.S. Economy

Columbus immigration lawyerAcross the United States, from the films of Hollywood to the skyscrapers of New York City, the contributions of immigrants are as influential as they are unavoidable. In fact, immigrants or international investors received more than half of the 302,000 patent grants issued in 2013. The importance of both international investment and immigration to the U.S. economy is undeniable. If you are thinking about investing or starting up a business in the U.S., or if you are an employer in Michigan or Ohio and you hire or need to hire international workers, let an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer provide the help and legal advice that you’ll need.

And you will need help and legal advice. The Partnership for a New American Economy reported in 2012 that “more than half of all patents were awarded to the group of foreign inventors most likely to face visa hurdles: students, postdoctoral fellows, or staff researchers.” The biggest hurdle right now is the difficulty obtaining H-1B visas, the visa primarily used for academic and scientific researchers. The yearly H-1B cap – 65,000 for bachelor’s degree holders, with another 20,000 for those who hold master’s degrees – is now inadequate. The world has changed a great deal – both economically and culturally – since the H-1B limit was implemented a quarter-century ago, and the U.S. immigration system has not adapted well to those changes.

Until immigration reforms are passed to raise the number of H-1Bs that the government issues each year, H-1B visas will remain difficult – but not impossible – to obtain. If you’re an employer in the United States and you need to acquire one or more H-1B visas; if you need to learn about options other than the H-1B; or if you have other concerns or questions about immigration and employment in the United States, speak promptly with an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer, and get the help you need.

For Highly-Skilled Immigrants, Graduates, And Entrepreneurs

Columbus immigration attorneyPresident Obama announced in November that he is issuing several executive orders regarding immigration. While protection from deportation for up to five million undocumented immigrants grabbed the media’s attention, the president is also expanding a program that allows international students graduating with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions to work in the United States temporarily. “I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy,” Obama said in his November 20 announcement.

If you’re a highly-skilled immigrant or an international graduate or entrepreneur, and you’re in Michigan, Ohio, or near the Columbus area, speak at once to an experienced Columbus immigration attorney to learn how the president’s actions may impact you. The president promised to “expand and extend” the Optional Practical Training program that lets international students and recent STEM graduates (in science, technology, engineering, and math) work in the United States for up to 29 months. The president will also make it easier for entrepreneurs to be approved to work in the United States. “DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) will expand immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment and generating revenue in the U.S., to ensure that our system encourages them to grow our economy,” the White House said in a press release subsequent to the president’s announcement.

Contact an experienced Columbus immigration attorney immediately if you are:

  • seeking legal protection from deportation and qualified for deferred action
  • a recent international graduate or an international student in a STEM field
  • a foreign investor or entrepreneur who wants to work or invest in the United States
  • a U.S.-based business with questions or concerns regarding international workers

The new changes will impact millions. Make sure that you are in compliance with the law and taking advantage of these new opportunities. And don’t wait to speak about any immigration-related matter with an experienced Columbus immigration attorney.

A Change Is Coming

Columbus immigration lawyerPresident Obama recently told immigration supporters that “no force on earth can stop us.” He said this and more early in October at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Awards Gala in Washington. President Obama also promised to take executive action on immigration before the end of 2014. When he announces the specifics of the immigration policy reforms, millions will be affected. Immigrants in Michigan and Ohio should obtain help with changes in the law or with any immigration-related legal issue by speaking immediately to an experienced Columbus emigration lawyer.

One proposal for change that President Obama might order would halt the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants by expanding the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program that defers deportation prosecutions for those brought into the U.S. without documentation as children. Along with reducing deportation numbers, the president is also considering ways to make more work visas available for more immigrants with exceptional skills and talents. Comprehensive changes urgently need to be made at once. The emigration system is archaic, unresponsive, and hopelessly backlogged. It keeps families apart and tells millions that their fates will be put “on pause” for years. As it’s currently designed, the U.S. immigration system causes unnecessary suffering for increasing numbers of people every day.

But changes are coming before the end of the year, and millions of immigrants both documented and undocumented – and the U.S.-based companies that hire them – will likely be impacted. When change happens, it’s imperative to be ready. Trustworthy, reliable legal help is available in Michigan and Ohio, but you must take the first step and make the call. In the Columbus area, if you need legal help with any emigration matter, or if you’re an employer with concerns about the new immigration regulations and how your business will be affected, get legal help and speak as quickly as possible with an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer.

Reforms Delayed Once Again

Columbus immigration attorneyPresident Obama will not take any executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections, White House officials told the New York Times early in September. The decision reverses Mr. Obama’s promise to overhaul the immigration system at summer’s end; it generated impassioned criticism from immigration advocates. Cristina Jimenez, speaking for United We Dream, an immigration advocacy group, told the Times that Mr. Obama is “playing politics” with the lives of immigrant families and said, “The president’s latest broken promise is another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community.”

Many immigrant families need legal help right now. In Michigan or Ohio, if you are an immigrant facing deportation or any other legal action, or if you have questions or need assistance with immigration-related paperwork, interviews, or hearings, get the help you need by speaking promptly to an experienced Columbus immigration attorney.

The president originally made the promise on June 30; he said he would take executive action by summer’s end to protect immigrant families from the threat of deportation. Administration officials insist that Mr. Obama is more determined than ever to take action, but the president and his aides have decided that action before November could damage the Democrats’ efforts to retain control of the Senate and set back any prospects for genuinely comprehensive immigration reform.

Among the possibilities that the president has considered is expanding the DACA program to provide more work permits to undocumented immigrants and to allow them to live and work here legally and indefinitely. The president and his aides believe that waiting until after the election will allow him to announce sweeping, sustainable changes to the immigration system that could potentially shield millions from deportation and provide them with work permits. “The president is confident in his authority to act, and he will before the end of the year,” one White House official told the Times.

However, if you need legal help now, and if you’re in Michigan or Ohio (or expecting to arrive there), consult right away with an experienced Columbus immigration attorney.