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Obtaining an H1B Visa: More Available, Tougher to Get

While both sides of the immigration debate tend to focus on male, low-skill workers coming undocumented from Mexico and Central America, the reality is that the majority of foreigners come to this country legally and with higher levels of education than the average American, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC.

H1-B Immigrants

Nannies, landscapers, housekeepers, construction workers, and other foreigners without a high school diploma, constitute only 28 percent of the immigrant population in the United States; compared to the 30 percent who have a college degree.  The report also states that the growth rate of more educated immigrants outpaces that of foreign low-skilled workers.

Most of the educated immigrants come to this country through work sponsored visas by their hiring companies. One of the most common is the H-1B (a non-immigrant visa for foreign workers in specialty occupations). Its quota, of 65,000 yearly visas, was filled during the first day of applications in April 2008 but last year, applications for this type of visas felt almost 50%, according to government figures. This year, some 51,400 out of 65,000 H-1B visas have not been issued, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Recession might be one of the reasons but some immigration attorneys suggest that this trend is because these visas are now more expensive and it is more challenging to fill the requirements. “It is harder to get an H-1B because government scrutinizes more closely to each application due to a high rate of unemployment”, explains immigration attorney Andres Benach from the law firm Duane Morris in Washington D.C.

H1-B Visas

Benach says that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials look closely whether the candidate has the appropriate credentials and if that position really requires a bachelor’s degree. The company must prove that it took good-faith steps to recruit American workers for the same job at the same wage, and it also stipulates that the district would have to offer a job to any American candidate who applies and is as qualified as the H-1B worker. “However,” he said, “I have heard of more cases that have been rejected.”

H-1B visas have a limit of six years and employers who want to keep their best foreign workers need to apply in advance for their legal permanent residence. As an example, the Baltimore school district faces uncertainty because 15 Filipino teachers were denied U.S. Citizenship after being hired with an H-1B visa; 110 teachers face a June 30 deadline to continue working in this country.

“I recommend that if employers want to keep their best foreign employees, they should begin the process as soon possible to seek permanent resident”, says Benach.
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