Wednesday, April 02, 2008

H-1B Visa Reform Gaining Steam

While in Charleston, SC visiting my kin, I've neglected my blogging. The world kept turning while I entertained Postindustrial Heartland dreams on Folly Beach. Richard Herman passed along a few items that I'll address in a later post, but I wanted first to cover a more recent article about the H-1B visa controversy:

"There'll be a flood" of H-1B visa petitions submitted, predicted Angelo Paparelli, president of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers and managing partner of Paparelli & Partners, a law practice with offices in New York and California.

The five-day window gives more time for smaller companies "that need just one or two" foreign professionals to "get their ducks in order," Paparelli said. However, the large volume of petitions expected to arrive at USCIS doesn't help those companies' chances of having their applications picked in the random lottery.

That's why Paparelli, who supports the H-1B visa cap being raised, has something in common with opponents of the H-1B visa program. Paparelli and others want to see the H-1B visa lottery dumped in favor of a more "logical system." Among the alternatives to the lottery system being suggested is evaluating the merit of the employer's request, evaluating the qualifications of the individual, or showing a documented shortage of skills in various geographic regions of the United States.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership (Cleveland's Chamber of Commerce) is proposing changes to the H-1B visa system to create "high-skill immigration zones" in the Midwest and "Rust Belt" cities.

Kim Berry, president of U.S. IT worker advocacy group Programmers Guild, says he's looking for several H-1B visa reforms, including "replacing the random lottery with competitive system where employers compete based on salary -- a reasonable proxy for skill -- just as they must do for the top candidates among U.S. workers."

While I'm happy to see that Mr. Herman's policy innovation is receiving more press, I wish the growing Great Lakes collaborative would throw their weight behind the lobbying effort. I know that Mr. Herman reached out to Richard Longworth and Jim Marczak. However, I'm not sure how a not-so-humble blogger living in Colorado can further catalyze substantive action.

Meanwhile, John Austin, GLEI and GLUE continue to move forward with their vision. I figure I need to make some progress with my own. Over at Rust Belt Bloggers, we are toying with the idea of taking up Mr. Longworth's proposition for better regional coverage of globalization. I'm interested in finding other bloggers who help me take up this challenge. We could further discuss this issue at the Rust Belt Bloggers Summit in Erie this July (11th-12th), but I recommend a few blog exchanges on the subject sooner rather than later.

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