In the days since the USCIS announced the large number of H-1b cap petitions filed this year, numerous articles have been written on the topic discussing the need for immigration reform and an increase in the number of H-1b’s available each year. Here are a few to read: BloombergBusinessWeek ; Computerworld; and our friend and fellow immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta published an insightful blog post on the subject.
Today, the USCIS announced that they received approximately 172,500 H-1b cap petitions. The lottery was completed today and 85,000 lucky petitions were selected for further processing. The remaining 87,500 rejected petitions will be returned. We expect to start receiving receipts and rejections in the next week. Premium processing of cases is expected to start no later than April 28th. Earlier this week, President Obama made a speech declaring how important it is for U.S. economic growth to keep the best and the brightest in the U.S. and to encourage entrepreneurship. With today’s announcement that over 50% of the best and brightest, as selected by U.S. employers, are being rejected for jobs in the U.S., it may provide the impetus for House Speaker Boehner and the Republicans in the House to stop holding CIR hostage and give appropriate consideration to the Senate bill which was passed in the summer of 2013 with wide bi-partisan support but, has not even been considered in the House.
The H-1b cap filing season officially opens today and the USCIS once again expects a lottery with the end result being that literally tens of 1000′s of professionals, some of them holding US graduate degrees will be rejected and told to go home ! As this unfolds, tech leaders from the Silicon Valley have made a push in Washington to pass immigration reform emphasing the job creation that is a direct result of H-1b workers.
On Tuesday night, President Obama gave the annual State of the Union address and immigration and CIR were not featured very prominently and that may be a good sign. If you did not catch the address, here is what President Obama said about the need for immigration reform,
“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
The lack of specifics and a seemingly deferential attitude toward allowing the legislative process to work, a stark contrast to other portions of his speech and certainly not characteristic of his Presidency, gives us hope that he believes the two sides are close and an agreement is possible. Comments made later by influential Democrat, Nancy Pelosi echo this sentiment. Although this may all be wishful thinking, in the midst of a bitterly cold winter, wishful thinking is often all we have.
Following the election, after the Republicans took a nice beat down, in part for their restrictionist views on immigration, many key Republicans have been touting a willingness to work together on CIR. See reports from the LA Times and the Huffington Post among many. But, is this good news for business immigration where the real needs are a solution to retrogression, more H-1bs, more options for entrepreneurs and most importantly, an administration that will force the Service Centers and U.S. Consulates to follow well-established legal precedent when adjudicating H-1b and L-1b petitions ? Unfortunately, these topics are not even making the discussion table. The proposal being passed around by Senators Schumer and Graham creates a path to citizenship for those persons that are currently here in an undocumented status (illegally) after ten years but, does nothing for the Indian engineer who is here legally but, is in a line that will take him thirty years to simply achieve residency. Further, their proposal makes it easier for low skilled labor to enter and work in the U.S. but, does not address the major problems that IT, engineering, and healthcare employers are facing in getting their highly skilled workers approved by the USCIS and then visas issued by the U.S. Consulates. Obviously, there is time for employers and pro-business immigration advocates to get behind measures that would address these and other key pro-business topics but, the time is now.
The DOS showed scrooge-like holiday spirit in its December Visa Bulletin released last week. In addition to the lack of movement for most categories, the DOS confirmed that they do not expect the India EB2 category to move at all and they indicated that they expect the Philippines EB3 category to creep along at a pace of only 1-3 weeks per month. The world-wide category is not much better, projected to move along at a pace of only 3-5 weeks per month. With the election behind us, we once again put our hope in Congress taking action on retrogression. Since all politicians keep all of their campaign promises, I firmly believe that CIR will happen and 2013 will see an end to long visa lines. Hey, it could happen !