Jeffrey is a talented electrical engineering PhD student at CalTech. He already holds three patents. One of his inventions may cure glaucoma. It is a tiny electrical device that can be implanted behind the human eyeball. It works automatically, can wirelessly interact with medical software, and doesn’t require a battery. After graduation, Jeffrey plans on starting his own company to produce it and help the roughly four million Americans who suffer from glaucoma.
Sounds like the beginning of a typical American success story. But Jeffrey’s story is not as uplifting as it seems. That’s because the government might kick him out of the country. He is not a criminal; Jeffrey Lin’s only offense is that he is from Taiwan.
Jeffrey and hundreds of thousands of foreign students in similar situations will create many start-up firms, create jobs, and improve technology one way or another. They just might not do so in the United States. Our immigration laws may well force Jeffrey, his ideas, and his talent back to Taiwan or to another welcoming country like
Fortunately, reform might be just around the corner. A bill called the STAPLE Act is currently winding its way through Congress. It would remove the numerical cap on H-1B visas. It would also automatically approve employer-sponsored green cards for foreign PhD students who graduate from American universities in the sciences, technology, engineering, or mathematics (what education wonks call the STEM fields).H-1B visas are employer-sponsored visas for highly skilled workers in specialty occupations. They run for three years and can be renewed once. Currently, there are only 20,000 H-1B spots for foreigners graduating from American universities. Actual
demand is far higher. The STAPLE Act essentially raises the cap by exempting some petitioners from it.
The STAPLE act is hardly a comprehensive reform. But it would help a lot of people like Jeffrey who came to the U.S. for its top-notch education system, and would like to stay because of its relatively excellent entrepreneurial environment. As the U.S. economy struggles to recover, it could use as many Jeffrey Lins as it can get.
Under the current system, Jeffrey has a chance of eventually getting a green card. But it will probably take at least six years. And it could take many more after his graduation. Until then, he will live a life of uncertainty dominated by filling out forms for the federal government and enduring restrictions on where he can work and what he can do.
Starting a business under such scrutiny is out of the question. Legal immigrants routinely tell stories of accidentally making errors on immigration forms and then having to begin the process all over again. Why should Jeffrey bother to raise capital or hire workers for his company when he might be forced to drop it if he is deported? Why would he buy a home or start a family? America is the land of entrepreneurs. Yet this is how the law treats many of those entrepreneurs.
Nationwide, immigrants like Jeffrey earn well over half of all engineering PhDs. Forty percent of PhD scientists working in the U.S. and a third of Silicon Valley’s scientists and engineers are foreign born. They invent and create economic opportunities for themselves and Americans.
WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced it continues to accept H-1B nonimmigrant petitions that are subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2012 cap. The agency began accepting these petitions on April 1, 2011.
USCIS is monitoring the number of petitions received that count toward the congressionally mandated annual H-1B cap of 65,000 and the 20,000 U.S. master’s degree or higher cap exemption.USCIS has received approximately 5,900 H-1B petitions counting toward the 65,000 cap, and approximately 4,500 petitions toward the 20,000 cap exemption for individuals with advanced degrees.
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Such workers include scientists, engineers and computer programmers, among others.
USCIS will provide regular updates on the processing of FY 2012 H-1B petitions. These updates and helpful filing information can be found at USCIS’s website highlighting the H-1B program. Should USCIS receive the number of petitions needed to meet the cap, it will issue an update advising the public that the FY 2012 H-1B cap has been met as of a certain date, known as the “final receipt date.”The date USCIS informs the public that the cap has been reached may differ from the actual final receipt date.To ensure a fair system, USCIS may, on the final receipt date, randomly select the number of petitions that will be considered for final inclusion within the cap. The agency will reject petitions subject to the cap that are not selected, as well as those received after the final receipt date. Whether a petition is received by the final receipt date will be based on the date USCIS physically receives the petition, not the date that the petition has been postmarked.Cases for premium processing (faster processing of certain employment-based petitions and applications) of H-1B petitions filed during an initial five-day filing window are undergoing a 15-day processing period that began April 7. For all other H-1B petitions filed for premium processing, the processing period begins on the date
that the petition is physically received at the correct USCIS Service Center.Meanwhile, petitions filed by employers who are exempt from the cap, as well as petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap within the past six years, will not count toward the cap.