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May 26, 2005

H-1B Talking Points from the American Immigration Lawyers Association

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has published these talking points on H-1B visas. Contrary to many reports published in the news H-1B visas are important to the U.S. Here are the talking points;

Overall message:
The FY 2005 H1-B cap was exhausted on October 1st 2004, the first day of the fiscal year. Without a remedy, U.S. companies will not be able to hire highly-educated foreign professionals, including those graduating from our own colleges and universities, for one full year.
The ability to obtain visas for highly educated foreign nationals is crucial to U.S. competitiveness and helps keep jobs in America.
A variety of business sectors, as well as school systems and medical facilities will be adversely impacted by the inability to hire H-1B workers.

To continue our economic and technological leadership we need to ensure that we have access to the best talent in the world.
U.S. employers should always have the ability to hire foreign nationals with graduate degrees from American universities and Congress must act on this matter so that U.S. employers and the U.S. economy are not adversely impacted.

Background--The cap has been hit: The H-1B cap reverted to 65,000 at the end FY03 - down from 195,000. The FY 2004 cap was reached in February; 2004.According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) the FY 2005 H-1B cap was reached on October 1, 2004, the first day of the fiscal year.

While the cap has been hit before (six times since 1997), this was the earliest time ever. As a result, many companies, medical facilities and educational institutions may be unable to hire the professionals they need this year - or next.

Don't shut the door on foreign PhD and master's degree recipients from U.S. universities. The H-1B visa remains an important tool for hiring highly educated foreign nationals, particularly foreign nationals with advanced degrees from US universities. These individuals are generally ineligible for other types of visas. We support exempting from the cap Masters and PhD graduates of US universities

In many critical disciplines, particularly in math, science and engineering, 50 percent or more of the advanced degrees at U.S. universities are awarded to foreign nationals.
America should reap the return on its own investment. U.S. taxpayers and companies directly fund much of the cutting edge research at American universities. Most of this work is done by graduate students. It is counterproductive for U.S. policy to encourage these individual to return home and compete against us.
H-1B visas are critical to creating and supporting U.S. jobs. Our ability to have access to top talent is critical to the nation's economic growth and national security. We need top talent to compete and win. While American companies prefer to hire domestic employees - it's actually cheaper, and there is less red tape - in many highly skilled professions it's vital to hire the best talent available. This keeps us competitive, builds our economy and drives job growth at home.

H-1Bs are needed in many professions. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, in 2002, the number of H-1B petitions approved for workers in education, medicine, and health and life sciences increased by 19, 14, and 7 percent, respectively. DHS also reports that H-1Bs for computer-related occupations fell precipitously by 61 percent from 191,400 in 2001 to 75,100 in 2002. The NEA reports that there was approximately 50,000 H-1B visa holders in education-related jobs during the 2002-2003 school years, of which about 29 percent were teaching in grades K-12.

International competition for the best talent poses a real threat to the American economy and national security. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon recently concluded that the United States, which has for years enjoyed an undisputed preeminence in attracting the best and brightest from Europe, Asia, Africa, India and all countries of the world, seems poised to surrender its lead. Their studies indicate that the United States' advantage seems to be shifting, in part due to the liberalized immigration polices of many European countries, Canada and Australia, which allow those countries to effectively attract and retain global talent.

Fewer Foreign Students are coming to the U.S. A recent survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education, which focuses on graduate students only, found there is a large drop in the number of foreign students applying to US schools from countries that usually send the most applications. Applications from students in China declined by 76 %, those from India were down 58%; even Western Europe had a 30% decline. The drop crossed all fields of study as well, with an 80-percent plunge in applications to engineering programs and a 65-percent reduction in those to physical-sciences programs. This suggests that our near term-needs are going to be even more critical. Telling Masters and PhD's graduates from U.S. schools that they are not welcome to work here will ultimately mean that will choose not to study here, an already growing concern.

Posted by VisaLawyer at May 26, 2005 08:19 AM

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