Houston immigration attorneys Rahul Reddy and Emily Neumann met with Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX.), Vice Chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee (Immigration), to voice concerns regarding the issues their clients face in navigating the current business immigration system as well as some of the problematic provisions of the bipartisan reform bill passed by the Senate. As attorneys dealing with the immigration red-tape on a daily basis, they welcomed the opportunity to comment on various reform proposals as well as highlight several ways in which the broken immigration system affects businesses today.
Currently, a U.S. employer needing to hire a foreign professional through the H-1B visa program must wait until October 1, 2014 to bring the person on board due to the unreasonably low number of visas available. Congress has limited the number of new H-1B visas each year to only 65,000, a number that was reached within only 5 days this past April. Even the additional 20,000 that are exempt from the cap for U.S. master’s degree holders were used up immediately. If this year is any indication of what is to come, even after waiting until 2014 to file an application, an employer must hope that the worker gets selected in the lottery because there are not enough slots for all of the applications filed.
In addition, inconsistency between adjudications with both USCIS and DOL creates doubt as to whether a petition or application will actually be approved. An employer may file two almost identical petitions and one will be approved while the other is denied. When a legitimate petition is denied, the business loses thousands of dollars in filing fees and attorney fees. This does not include the cost of lost business due to the company’s inability to hire a key worker for a new project. Furthermore, small-to medium-sized businesses are often requested to submit voluminous documentation to establish eligibility, which is overly burdensome and creates additional cost.
Current immigration policies have also created the years-long backlog for those awaiting a green card through employment. From 1992 to the present over 400,000 green cards went unused due to processing delays. The per-country cap has further resulted in backlogs for individuals coming from high-demand countries like India, even when the overall cap has not been reached. Also, approximately 80,000 of the 140,000 employment-based green cards available each year are issued to spouses and children of the sponsored worker. This creates even more backlog for the actual workers being sponsored. Combined, these points have resulted in a wait of almost 9 years for a professional from India holding a master’s degree to obtain a green card. The wait is even longer for bachelor’s degree holders or skilled workers.
While some reform proposals seek to alleviate the green card backlog and increase the number of H-1B visas available, other provisions being debated would create additional restrictions on the H-1B visa program. These provisions would burden employers with restrictions on outplacement, additional documentation requirements, further recruitment efforts, and higher wage levels without regard to the size of the business. A provision requiring a thirty-day waiting period before filing an H-1B petition is included in the Senate’s immigration bill, which does not take into consideration today's fast-paced economy. The Senate plan also increases filing fees for H-1B petitions to a point which will make the visa category cost prohibitive for small businesses.
House lawmakers are unwilling to consider the Senate bill and are instead working on a piecemeal approach. Congressman Poe indicated that several individual immigration bills are up to be debated in the Judiciary Committee. Bills already passed deal with mandatory E-Verify, Border Security, and high-skilled immigration. A temporary guest worker program, DREAM act, and agriculture programs are still to be discussed. Once all bills are passed out of committee, they are expected to be brought to the House floor for a vote on the same day, likely sometime in September. The separate approaches taken by the House and Senate will result in a conference committee to resolve differences and an entirely different bill could be the final result.
Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated in its advocacy and community involvement efforts towards achieving effective comprehensive immigration policy reform. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.