By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-06-05 Print this article Print

-determined value on workers"> The second visa—the Z variety—addresses illegal immigrants, offering them amnesty if they pay up to a $5,000 fine, $1,500 processing fee and can amass enough points rewarded for English proficiency and education, with added points for science, math and tech, work experience, family ties and a job offer in a high-demand field. They, too, must return to their country of origin to apply, though their spouses and children would not be required to.

Government-determined value on workers
A move to a merit-based system in which points for skills, education and occupation add value to a green card application is another of the large shifts in the immigration bill that have left technology employers none-too-pleased.
Under the proposed point plan, businesses which have long sponsored green cards for the specific individuals they wish to hire will no longer be able to handpick their recruits. Instead, theyll have to hope that the foreign citizen they want has enough points to get one of the limited numbers of visas, or pick from a subset of individuals that the government has screened and determined valuable to the economy. "The point system will take away the ability of employers to hire the professionals they identify as critical to their business in a timely manner," wrote Phillip Bard, president and CEO of ITAA (Information Technology Association of America) in a statement. "Highly-skilled professionals recruited by firms will be forced to compete with self-nominated applicants for the small number of available visas. The proposals will move the immigration system away from one that is sensitive to business needs to one driven by the perceptions of government employees." H-1B scramble hits fever pitch. Click here to read more. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-California), chairwoman of the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, told the New York Times on June 5 she had found no one in her Silicon Valley district who thought the point system was a good idea. "The point system is like the Soviet Union… The government is saying, in effect, We have a five-year plan for the economy, and we will decide with this point system what mix of skills is needed. That is not the way a market-based capitalist economy works best," said Lofgren. Removal of degree equivalency The ITAA also opposes a new H-1B restriction in the bill which eliminates existing "degree equivalency" provisions, barring employers from obtaining foreign talent if their college degrees do not precisely correlate with the position they want to fill. "Under the current law, employers can pick a skilled individual that didnt have a specific degree," said Mydland. "If you use a U.S. standard, how will that equate to foreign schools degrees? Some will not. What if that potential employee was a French major but theyve been writing code for the last eight years? What if they have other experience that we can equate to what we need? Theyll score fewer points, and possibly not even get in the door down the road." The new restriction also removes a clause that previously allowed H-1B applicants to exchange years missing from a university degree with equivalent experience. "Maybe youre an engineer with a Ph.D. who has taught high school math for ten years or a journalist with a business degrees and several years experience writing for newspapers. Or maybe youre a computer programmer with 25 years experience and began work in the field when university degrees werent available. Too bad—youre not welcome anymore on an H-1B visa," wrote Siskind. Level of H-1B dependency irrelevant The other big complaint from technology employers about the immigration bill is over more restrictions. Under current law, only companies that have more than 15 percent of their work force arranged by H-1B visas—called "H-1B dependent" companies—are held to tougher rules. This proposed bill would apply them to all H-1B employers, regardless of how dependent they are on H-1B workers. A company with five H-1B employees would be held to the same scrutiny as Infosys, an outsourcing company which held the largest number of visas in 2006. "There are currently enforcement provisions, extra layers or hurdles for companies who are heavy users of H-1B visas," said Mydland. "This system had been built to address those that were violating that law or were large users of the program. Applying these rules to all companies will further delay the H-1B process." Limiting student provisions The current H-1B program, in addition to the 65,000 visas made available each year, sets aside 20,000 visas from individuals with advanced degrees from U.S. schools. The immigration bill entirely eliminates this clause. Tech employers were far more enthused by a bill passed by the Senate last year that would have also raised the H-1B cap to 115,000, but it would have exempted all foreign students with advanced degrees from U.S. universities and added 20,000 visas for foreign students with advance degrees in the coveted STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees from foreign schools. "We met the 20,000 cap for U.S.-educated foreigners within a month that the visas were available. But, we met the H-1B cap of 65,000 alone in one day. If both groups were lumped together, we wont fit the U.S. educated foreign workers in," said Mydland. "We dont understand why there would be any cap on an educated individual who wanted to work here," he added. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management.


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