April explains, "US employers with these needs simply can’t find enough technology professionals to staff their offices. US colleges and universities are not graduating enough people with the required skills. Recognition of this problem is growing on US campuses and on a federal and state level, and there’s a great deal of talk right now about improving STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) at all levels. Meanwhile, private industry is setting up “boot camps” in software engineering in cities all over the country."
Employers Face a Shortage of Programming Professionals
But these are long-term solutions. They don’t solve the problem for New Jersey employers, who need more programming and IT employees right now – and have to go through a complex process when hiring them from abroad.
“There’s a dearth of this skill set – people writing code. It’s a challenge we’re finally facing,” McGovern notes. But he adds, “Some of the Pacific Rim countries teach these skills at an earlier level. They don’t wait for students to reach higher levels. That’s what we are up against.”
US law right now allows only 85,000 people into the US as a whole, annually, on H1-B visas. Approximately 65,000 of these require at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Some 20,000 may be foreign professionals with a Masters or Doctoral Degree from a US university.
The process for obtaining these temporary employment visas is complex. It may include petitioning two or three parts of the US government – from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (the first step) to the State Department and Department of Labor (DOL). No wonder most firms hire specialized legal help to facilitate the process.
Firms such as Harlan York & Associates and Genova Burns, both headquartered in Newark, and Archer & Greiner, headquartered in Haddonfield, find that they have a steady stream of New Jersey employers coming in their doors every year asking for help hiring foreign workers either from abroad or from US master’s and doctorate programs.
There is no specific quota for each state. Quotas are set on a national basis. In addition, the federal government now requires employers to file their requests for such workers by April 1 each year. That makes things even more difficult because employers can’t respond quickly to changes in work conditions later in the year.
Jersey’s Unemployment Hinders H-1B Hiring
New Jersey employers are also up against obstacles because of the state’s unemployment rate. Since the Great Recession, New Jersey’s rate has been higher than the national average. During the recession it caused a particular problem because when employers wanted to downsize or cut salaries, they were prohibited by law from doing that for H-1B visa employees.
Now, this higher unemployment rate makes the certification process for foreign nationals harder because government requires a greater amount of proof that no US national can fill the job with someone in the US. “This is a big turnoff for employers,” McGovern says.
Employers who want to their H-1B employees to achieve permanent resident status find that is difficult, too. H-1B visas are granted for three years and can run a maximum of six years with extensions. But the process for converting these visas to permanent resident status is “strict, expensive and time consuming,” says Greg Palakow, chairman, immigration practice at Archer & Greiner.
Two types of visas are relatively easier for New Jersey employers to get approved. These are the L-visas (L-1A and L1B) for employees already working abroad for a company. These are for foreign professionals who have worked for the employer abroad. Their company wants them to work in the US for a certain period of time. These visas are “every lawyer’s dream,” according to McGovern. There is no annual limit on these, employees are frequently granted extensions, and the visa holders may be sponsored for permanent status by their employers.
For the full story: http://njbmagazine.com/monthly_articles/how-the-immigration-law-gridlock-hurts-new-jersey-employers/