by Don Slowik, Attorney and ImmigRanter at Slowik & Robinson, LLC
So the debt ceiling scare is over, and the U.S. now stands on the dawn of a golden age of prosperity as our economy improves and more jobs are created, right?
Well, what if I told you that in many sectors — particularly those dealing with IT — those jobs are already here. Good ones, too. It’s the people who aren’t there. Check out this recent Columbus Dispatch article, describing the lack of skilled workers available in the central Ohio area. We’re talking thousands of high-paying jobs — and that’s just in one region.
It all points to a common problem we’re seeing. The U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in their effort to protect the U.S. workforce, have made it increasingly difficult for companies to hire skilled foreign workers here, even temporarily. And if you’re trying to hire someone who will remain here indefinitely for a permanent position, then it’s even harder. In those types of cases, the U.S. company has to prove it couldn’t find a qualified U.S. worker for that job in the labor market. Isn’t that like proving a negative?
For temporary hires, foreign workers have to fit into certain designated work categories, of which there’s a limited number available under U.S. law. One of the things Slowik & Robinson does is work with business clients trying to fit foreign workers into their appropriate temporary category.
And that’s not easy. The immigration service has become extremely adept at challenging H-1B visa requests, with reasons ranging from “this work’s too general” to “the alien does not have the right kind of degree.”
So it’s become a complicated process, something that a company’s not going to go through unless it really can’t find somebody locally to do the work. We get our clients through the process successfully, but it shouldn’t require so much work. I must say, in my 25 years of experience in immigration law, I’ve never come across an employer client who hired an alien just for the sake of hiring an alien.
Clearly, the hiring crunch experienced in central Ohio and elsewhere could be ameliorated with an emphasis on properly educating future workers. But for the short term, if our government doesn’t rethink its approach toward H-1B approvals, not only will our best local companies start lagging behind the technology curve — and governments miss out on the tax revenues of highly paid workers — but don’t be a bit surprised to see more of those businesses move to countries with more reasonable visa regulations.
Don’t believe me? It’s already happening. Just look at the development center Microsoft built in immigration-friendly Vancouver, BC, back in 2007.