U.S. Capital

Though Firms Eye Foreign-Born Students, Many Are Forced Into Post-Graduation Exodus

Dec 15, 2013

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) December 10, 2013 – The demand for qualified college students from abroad is high, but with current U.S. immigration laws, many must leave the country immediately after graduation.

Among the primary documents that technology companies (and other firms that employ significant numbers of foreign workers) use, the H1-B visa stands out as the most important. However, the H1-B visa is only valid for employment and does not cover another group of skilled workers that American companies often covet: foreign-born students with degrees.

But the F-1 visa students rely upon to enter American universities from abroad only permits them to stay in the United States for the duration of their studies. And since green cards — necessary in order to remain in the United States after graduation — are difficult to obtain, many qualified, foreign-born graduates are exiting the country after they earn their degrees.

The demand for high-skilled workers from abroad, especially those with advanced degrees, was made apparent in emphatic fashion earlier this year. In April, the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) held a lottery to add an additional 85,000 slots for H1-B visas (beyond the official quota of 65,000 that had already been granted). The USCIS started accepting petitions for the visas on April 1 and stopped accepting them five days later because of the volume of applications they had already received.

Exemptions are in place for those who work at universities and those who fall under certain other categories, so the 65,000 ceiling does not accurately reflect the total number of immigrants who are granted H1-B visas. Last year, the total number of H1-B visas issued stood at 129,000, with Indian nationals constituting the largest single group of recipients.

The 85,000 lottery-granted H1-B visas included 20,000 slots for master’s and doctoral degree recipients from U.S. universities. And many immigration experts stress that, since the current demand outstrips the allocated supply, increasing numbers of qualified college students will have to depart the country post-graduation without changes to U.S. immigration law.

“If we are training the world’s leading innovators in the science and technology fields but sending them away, that’s a major problem,” said Neil Ruiz, an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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