Great Article by CBS.
Visa bill means U.S. brain gain
But INS must accelerate holders' green card status
By Paul Erdman, CBS.MarketWatch.com
Last Update: 1:46 PM ET Oct 3, 2000 NewsWatch
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- The United States Senate passed a bill Tuesday raising the number of H-1B visas allowing skilled foreign-born workers to work in the United States from the current 115,000 to 195,000 for each of the next three years. The House will do the same shortly.
The vote was 96-1, which is to be applauded since it is a total triumph of common sense over the type of anti-immigration demagoguery practiced by Ross Perot four years ago, and by Pat Buchanan and the AFL/CIO today.
Our country needs these workers if our high-tech industries are to maintain the forward momentum that has been key to the United States now enjoying the best of economic times in its entire history.
No domestic workers will be displaced, since jobs are and will be available to any and all Americans who qualify.
As William T. Archey, the president of the American Electronics Association puts it: "With unemployment rates in many high-tech regions now 2 percent and the number of Americans obtaining high-tech degrees declining, grasping the need for this legislation doesn't require a Ph.D. In economics."
No doubt these higher quotas will be filled almost immediately. However, there is growing criticism of the system by the foreign professionals who have already taken advantage of it. It can be summed up in that fact that a H-1B visa is not the equivalent of the green card, which allows for permanent residency.
Because of the numbers involved, and the gross inefficiency of our Immigration and Naturalization Service, the processing of green cards can take from four year to seven years. Yet after six years, when the H-1B visa runs out, you're out. This leaves hundreds of thousands of foreign professionals in limbo, unable to plan for their future, be it in terms of buying a house or arranging for their children's long-term education. As one frustrated Indian engineer puts it: "Our American dream has become a nightmare."
Heretofore, this criticism of our system did not matter, since we were the only game in town. That is now changing. Canada offers what is basically green card status to immigrating professionals after only a short waiting period. So does Australia. Germany will now issue 50,000 equivalents of our H-1B visas, albeit on a temporary basis and only for three years. The biggest problem could stem from reverse immigration. A growing number of the estimated 1,300 multimillionaire expatriate Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are returning home to organize startups there.
As these Indian clones of Silicon Valley enterprises multiply, increasing numbers of frustrated Indian software engineers in the U.S. are bound to take a new look at their own country.
So it would benefit all of us if our INS got on the ball by putting those foreigners with an H-1B visa on a fast track to a green card. We all have a vested interest in their staying here.