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Breaking the Visa Backlog 109

Posted by Hemos
from the good-use-of-technology dept.
bart_scriv writes "As anyone who has dealt with H1-B visas can attest, the process can be a nightmare of long lines, waits and inexplicable delays. In this interview, the State Department's Tony Edson discusses what's being done to speed up and expedite the process, ranging from procedural changes to the use of new technology."
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Breaking the Visa Backlog

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  • It's complicated for a reason.

    You know what's faster? Hiring an American.

    Give me a call.
    • I know that I'm comparing apples to oranges, but it's that kind of attitude that has created for us this big shitstorm over illegal immigration: People want to work in this country, and our companies are willing to hire them over American workers, and they aren't going to take no for an answer, so you might as well let them have what they want, but on your terms.
      • Those "they"s in the last three clauses is supposed to refer to the workers, not the companies, though I guess it works for both.
      • Giving blanket amnesty to people who violate our immigration laws is 'on our terms'? Damn, that's some serious spin.

        Our terms should be; streamline guest worker program, all illegals leave the country and apply for re-entry, any immigrant currently employed can be fast tracked assuming they pass the requisite background checks. But everyone has to enter legally.

        Anyone still here illegally after 1 year is deported and banned, permanently. And any employer that doesn't comply risks severe fines and mandantory
      • If I was going to give the corporations what they want on my terms, it would be this: A separate tax bracket for corporations with overseas offices or that buy and sell ANYTHING overseas of 75% gross proceeds tax. And that includes those who hire "illegal aliens" or "guest workers". Simply make it unprofitable to do so.
      • it's that kind of attitude that has created for us this big shitstorm over illegal immigration: People want to work in this country, and our companies are willing to hire them over American workers, and they aren't going to take no for an answer, so you might as well let them have what they want, but on your terms.

        Actually, I think they WILL take no for an answer if we start exposing some of the sleaze inherent in the H1-B scam.

        How many of you have seen ads for "DBA/Programmer/Network engineer" positions p

        • You are describing the abuses of the system, and that hurts the system in 2 ways:
          1. Most obvious is the fact that now someone else is doing a job that unemployed Americans are qualified to do, the only reason the company didn't hire the American is because they consider it to be too expensive. That hurts the person who could have had the job, but probably the overall effect on the economy is minimal if the number of H1B visa holders is kept low.

          2. However, the more subtle way it hurts the economy is it
          • You are describing the abuses of the system, and that hurts the system in 2 ways

            I would hope the H1-B system is designed to help startups, but we all know it wasn't: Otherwise there wouldn't be loopholes to exploit big enough for the Fortune 500 to drive a cement-mixer through. The reason should be fairly obvious if you've been following politics in the U.S. in the last thirty or so years: Money.

            Startups with a dozen employees don't make massive campaign contributions to keep Congress-critters in offic

    • 1. Does the applicant show initiative, is he/she proactive?

      No. (Give me a call)

      2. When presented with a problem, does the applicant find a general solution, or is he/she looking for a temporary shortcut?

      Temporary shortcut. (You know what's faster? Hiring an American)

      3. Recommendation for hire?

      Not recommended.
      • I realize what you posted was meant as a joke, but that is not a good solution to either unemployment of American workers, and the current influx of unauthorized immigration.

        1. Does the applicant show initiative, is he/she proactive?

        No. (Give me a call)


        Actually, GP is showing initiative by suggesting you contact an American worker, rather than an unauthorized immigrant. Seems to me that he's looking for work, and inviting you to call him.


        2. When presented with a problem, does the applicant find a
    • This isn't a troll. This is why it is supposed to be hard. You're SUPPOSED to hire an American First. That is the law surrounding H1B visas. That it isn't enforced doesn't change that fact.
  • What is an H-1B? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What is an H-1B?

    The H-1B is a nonimmigrant classification used by an alien who will be employed temporarily in a specialty occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability.

    http://uscis.gov/graphics/howdoi/h1b.htm#what/ [uscis.gov]

    • 1- fashion model is not a specialty occupation?
      2- what defines 'ability' of a model?
      3- what about distinguished merit and NO ability models like XXX (insert your own answer)

      etc...
    • In other words, an indentured servant with no hope of citizenship without losing their job.
      • The process of getting a visa is not meant to be a punishment. It's meant to introduce you to our country by showing you what it's like to be a citizen.

        DMV

        (or DPS for us Texans)

        Until you have stood in line, and felt the mind-numbing soul-sucking near-lethal apathy of waiting to get your driver's license or anything else from those godforsaken offices, or waited to pay local taxes... you cannot truly be prepared for the US.

        The visa application process is merely to weed out the weaklings, so that
      • It's not that bad. If you are good enough, the company will sponsor you for permanent residency, and there are other ways too. Remember, H1-Bs sign up for it, and it is hard, but there's a reason why they want that visa.
        • It's not that bad. If you are good enough, the company will sponsor you for permanent residency, and there are other ways too. Remember, H1-Bs sign up for it, and it is hard, but there's a reason why they want that visa.

          If there is any way for them to get permanent residency, then the visa has failed in it's primary purpose as a "non-immigrant" visa. Much as I hate the entire concept of a non-immigrant visa, there most certainly should be a hard line between immigrant and non-immigrant visas; which will
          • Changes of status from non-immigrant to immigrant are typical, not just in work visas either. How is it any different to change your status by changing it while in the country versus changing it after leaving the country in order to come back? But you do have a point, I hate the idea of non-immigrant visas. :)
            • The basic idea of a non-immigrant visa is selfish brain drain- An American corporation gets the skillset far cheaper (in terms of time and money) than training an American to do the same job *because* it is assumed that the person will be retireing back home where cost of living is much less. Subvert this by allowing in-country status change from non-immigrant to immigrant, and the cost savings will disappear upon the change; I've known several H-1bs who lost their jobs upon winning the green card "lottery
              • You and I disapprove of non-immigrant visas for different reasons. ;) I thought it was illegal to pay H1-Bs less than the equivalent permanent resident/citizen worker though, in order to deincentivize the hiring of foreigners to jobs for which there are Americans who can do the work. Am I wrong there?
                • I thought it was illegal to pay H1-Bs less than the equivalent permanent resident/citizen worker though, in order to deincentivize the hiring of foreigners to jobs for which there are Americans who can do the work. Am I wrong there?

                  That was part of the 1999 compromise bill that:
                  1. Increased the number of H-1b visas to 195,000
                  2. Required an Labor Condition Application to attest to paying prevailing wages and advertising the job, except for businesses that were not H-1b dependant (defined as more than 33%
  • Speaking as someone who's been through a couple of visa processes I can honestly say that I wasn't overly bothered with the wait times. I'm completely aware of the need for border security and consider the wait times, the queues, the forms and procedures to be almost a 'rite of passage.' It's an unpleasant procedure that's for sure (I'd go so far as to describe the whole experience as soul destroyingly frustrating) but I'd rather it be there than not.

    The two biggest issues that I have with the whole proce
    • One way to reduce the backlog would be to shoot the monkey who designed the forms and processes, and hire someone with half of a brain. Perhaps they tried, but the only candidate they had needed an H1B candidate and gave up. A few of my favourite questions from the application forms... List all countries you have visited in the last 10 years, and the date of the visit. Followed by a box about 1.5 inches by 0.25 inches - enough space to write 'see attached page' Do you have any special skills, eg nuclea
  • 1) Automate the heck out of the system. Duh.

    2) Put skilled workers on the fast track for citizenship and skip this H1B visa nonsense. Any country that makes our marginal tax rates look good deserves to lose their best and brightest, and keeping those workers tied to a given employer is just plain wrong.

    3) Annex Mexico. Seriously. Allegedly 30% of the Mexican work force is already here and there are an awful lot of American retirees down there. Auction off Pemex and distribute the money to the Mexican s
  • The Future of IT [slashdot.org] is clear:

    US contractors are paid by the State Department to streamline the H-1b visa workflow.

    Then they go on unemployment until they realize why they can't even get a minimum wage job.

    Then they volunteer for The Minuteman Project [minutemanhq.com].

    Then Congress passes "immigration reform" to put all illegal aliens on "a path to citizenship".

    Then....

    • Yes, now it is absolutely clear. Because, of course, people applying for H-1B visas are all illegals...

      Please, don't let Lou Dobbs (et al.) guide your world. He's an idiot. Don't follow suit.

      • Illegal aliens aren't on a path to H-1b visas, which are being targeted mainly at lowering middle class wages. Illegal aliens are the ones who:
        1. Remove the job market "safety net" for falling middle class families so they no longer can support themselves even at the level of minimum wage poverty.
        2. Provide an outlet for frustration over the rising price of real estate relative to wages by virtue of being "illegal" -- which is a more politically defensible target than "they're taking my means of support!".

        T

  • I didn't read the summary and just dove into the story, thinking it was about what Microsoft is doing to speed up production of 'Vista'.

    Then I thought, "it's some kind of metaphor?"

    Nope, it's actually about vistas. Next time I will RTFS. :P
  • You know you've been reading Slashdot too long when you assume the title of this article contained a typo for "vista".

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:17PM (#15190525) Journal
    Having been through the visa process (and I'm not in a 'high demand' country like India), they do it to themselves mainly as far as workload. Part of the problem is that the people they are accountable to (the US voter) are not the people they serve (the immigrant), and INS and US Embassy jobs seem to attract more of its fair share of jobsworths and "little hitler" bureaucrats who just love to mess people around.

    Take for example this. The US Embassy in London rejected my APPROVED visa application (it was an extension to a visa, and the INS in the United States had approved it, and all the embassy was required to do was to stick a new visa in my passport) because one of the forms was "out of date". So I downloaded the new, up to date form off their website. I couldn't believe it when I looked at it - it was absolutely identical to the old form, except the date at the bottom was different!

    On a previous application, they rejected my application because the company I worked for hadn't filled out the form right (according to them; according to our international assignments department, generally they find a formula that works with the forms - and the forms will be processed OK by the Embassy for about 6 months, and then without warning they start rejecting them. Then they have to to-and-fro in a trial and error process until the Embassy begins accepting the forms again. And about 6 months later, the forms start getting rejected again - rinse and repeat). I had to go to London, sit in the Embassy for 4 hours.

    The Embassy itself was quite interesting. You sit in this large square room, and at the end are a bunch of bank teller style windows. There is a delicatessen-style number system. You are given a ticket and wait until your number is called. Of course, prior experience with the Embassy means that you know for sure if you miss your number, they will NOT call it out again and you will be sent away - so it's incredibly difficult to do something like read a book to pass the time just in case you miss the number. There are these 'newspapers' they leave too, I think they were called "Going USA". The first half of this paper is devoted to how great the USA is (land of opportunity etc., it seemed mainly to be stories about people who wanted to immigrate to run gas stations), and how awful your home country is by comparison. The second half of this paper is dedicated to telling you how you will never, ever get a visa! So anyway, my number was called. The question?

    "How long have you been working for this company"
    "3 years so far"
    "That's fine" (stamp stamp). "You'll get your passport back in about 3 days"

    They could have asked me that over the phone rather than incurring the cost of going all the way to London, waiting 4 hours, and then sending me away.

    The Embassy is probably even worse now. I've heard that the ones in India will reject your application unless you turn up in a business suit (but that's just hearsay, I can't substantiate that). They have all sorts of petty bureacratic rules they won't tell you - they just reject applications with nothing except a very vague reason, and you have to keep retrying until you satisfy them (and even then, after a few months, forms that were completely satisfactory are suddenly unsatisfactory with more vague reasons for rejection).

    Then there's the obvious bias. An Irish friend of mine actually got naturalized as a US citizen. He's a doctor. There was a family in front of him for one of the interviews done by the INS. They got given a real grilling - not in a private interview room, but in front of everyone in the waiting room. When he got there? "Oh, Doctor Smart, yes this is acceptable" >stampstamp. It seemed like if you were a doctor, you weren't subjected to the INS Dehumanization adn Demoralization Programme.
    • I, too, have been thru the H1-b and green card process, and I agree with your experiences.

      Fortunately I never had to do consular processing (I got my H1b, and had my green card application underway, before 9/11/01), but I got caught in a nasty backlog for my EAD (Work Authorisation document for folks waiting on a green card application, for those of you who are following along).

      What happened is this: EADs are good for 1 year. Up until 2 years ago, you used to apply for a new EAD 6 weeks prior to the old one

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