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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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Anti-immigrants love recessions because they can whip up fears of
foreigners coming to the US and stealing American jobs. But pro-immigration
advocates can just as easily make the case that immigrants are job generators
for Americans. And immigration can do even more to help the economy than is the
case under the current system. Here are ideas for changing immigration law to
attract needed capital into American businesses and enable employers to hire
more American workers. Some of these are changes that can be made by a
government agency while others would require legislative changes.


1.       Create
a retiree visa


What if we could find people to immigrate
to the US who are well off financially who want to spend money in the US and
who have no desire now (or likely in the future) to try and find employment in
the US? We can. They're retirees and they've been coming to the US for years.
But many are reluctant to buy vacation or retirement properties because they
only get 90 or 180 day stays when they come over and have to deal with
convincing a CBP officer that they have strong ties abroad and are going home
after each trip.


Why not create a retiree visa that would be
limited to
people over fifty-five who can show a steady source of non-work income, that
they have their own health insurance and they own a residence in the US without
a mortgage? >>



2.       Create
a new medical visitor visa


You may not have heard of medical tourism,
but it is a very important new trend in global health care. People are more and
more frequently traveling outside their own countries for health care.  A lot of Americans are looking to go abroad
for procedures, particularly the uninsured, because of big cost differences.  And a lot of wealthy foreign nationals are
coming to the US because we have cutting edge treatments with some of the best
doctors in the world. Creating a separate tourist visa for people who have the
financial means to pay for their US treatment will give a boost to American
hospitals and having foreign nationals able to pay the full bill for their care
helps to underwrite Americans who don't qualify for government funded care, but
are not well off enough to pay 100% of their medical bills.



3.       Make
F-1s dual intent


When a student applies for an F-1 visa, the student must demonstrate that he or she has no intention to immigrate. But it's pretty hard for someone to
prove this when they're coming over for a program that lasts several years.


Making F-1 visas a dual intent category and
not denying entry on the basis of a lack of ties to the home country will help in two
very important ways. First, foreign students very often receive no financial
aid and are, in effect, subsidizing American students unable to afford higher
education without some outside help.


Second, a great number of American
universities have been unable to find enough American students to fill slots in
graduate programs, particularly in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering
and math. Those foreign students often make it possible for a university to
keep a department going that otherwise might not survive and thrive without
them here. And that means American graduate students have MORE opportunities. International students also help ensure that America's place as the premiere
country for research is maintained.


4.       Improve
the EB-5 immigrant investor program

It's a real shame that only a few
hundred of the ten thousand immigrant investors available each year end up
getting used. Congress created this green card category in 1990 and the idea
was to help American businesses attract foreign capital and also to create
plenty of jobs for American workers. EB-5 immigrant investors who invest
$1,000,000 and create ten jobs through their investment are supposed to get a green card in
exchange for their helping the country.

Most countries in the developing
world have an immigrant investor program, but the one in the US is,
unfortunately, pretty unpopular. Why? A lot has to do with USCIS'
well-documented hostility to the program over the years.

It's time for the our government to
realize that this program is important to the country and making it difficult
for immigrant investors to use the program costs Americans jobs and prevents
American businesses from getting capital at a time when they could really use
the help.

Here are some possible changes that
would inject some life in to the EB-5 program:

a.       Mandate
premium processing - There is no reason why it should take USCIS seven months
to process an I-526 application and then another four to six months for the
State Department to deal with the consular processing or two more years if the applicant
chooses to adjust status (not kidding). If an applicant can afford the
investment required for the EB-5, surely USCIS and DOS can come up with fee
amounts that will enable the two agencies to be able to provide speedy, high
quality service. In fact, the higher fees will enable USCIS to hire more
people, thus making the EB-5 program a job creation visa in a new way.


b.      Permit
concurrent filing of I-360s and I-485s - The adjustment of status
process in California is taking 27 months according to the latest California
Service Center processing time report on top of the 7 months for the I-526. 27
months is a travesty, but at least allow concurrent filing as is the case with
other employment-based green card categories.


c.       Allow
EB-5s for those providing loans to American companies and not just those taking
equity investments - USCIS has been a real stickler over the years in terms of
restricting the types of investments that work for the EB-5 program. Loans are
barred under the EB-5 rules even if the loan results in tangible job creation.
This seems pretty dumb when we're in the middle of one of the tightest credit
markets in a century and businesses are failing every day because they can't
get loans. The federal government is LOANING money to businesses to help save
jobs. Yet USCIS acts like an investor is somehow being sneaky when an
investment is structured as debt rather than equity. A loan can save a distressed business and result in job creation just like an equity investment.


d.      Allow
constructions jobs to count - USCIS will not count full time directly created
jobs in construction in determining if ten full time jobs have resulted from
the investment. Do construction workers somehow not count as real workers?  Count 'em.



5.       Bonus
H-1Bs for employers that have expanded their US work force


Sure, we can get in to another argument
over H-1Bs and get in to the age old arguments over how protectionist we should
be when it comes to insulating the American labor market. But let's put that
aside for the moment and think about places where there might be some room for


Today I read about one of the country's
biggest banks laying off 35,000 workers. How about rewarding companies that
expand the number of American workers on their payroll with bonus H-1Bs? Maybe
something along the lines of a formula where for every four or five workers a
company's work force grows, they get a cap exempt H-1B slot?


6.       Eliminate
the H-1B cap for occupations with less than 4% unemployment


Why 4%? That's a figure economists often
consider to be "full" employment where workers have a relatively easy time
finding employment and rates below this figure have an inflationary effect. If
an employer can demonstrate it is filling jobs with H-1B workers in an occupation with full
employment, then there should be little concern about displacing American workers.
And jobs for Americans in the industry are saved because employer unable to
find needed workers frequently shut down their US operations and move abroad,
causing American and non-immigrant workers alike to lose their jobs.


7.       E-2s
- scrap the requirement that investing happen prior to the issuance of the E-2
visa and replace it with a probationary E-2 for a year that can be extended if
the investor has begun investing funds.

The E-2 visa is available to
investors investing "substantial" funds in a commercial enterprise in the US. When
I explain to someone thinking about setting up a business in the US and getting
an E-2 visa, they are often perplexed when I explain that they have to be
actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of money and only
after their money is sunk in the business will a consular officer approve the
visa. Huh? You sink a fortune in to a business and then the consulate turns you
down for the visa. Now that's attractive. Not!

While there is a legitimate concern
with people being granted an E-2 visa and then not really going through with
the investment, there is an alternative approach that could be tried. How about
only approving the initial E-2 visa for a new investment for a year if the
investor has not already invested substantially in the US business? We already
do something similar with L-1 visas where USCIS will typically grant a one year
approval for a new office in the US.


8.       Create
a green card category for E-2 investors if they have maintained the investment
for five years and have created jobs for 10 workers


One of the gaps in our immigration system
is that people can get an E-2 visa, create lots of jobs and invest lots of
money, but they may never be able to get permanent residency. How about
rewarding people who have invested for many years and created many jobs with
permanent residency? Perhaps allow conversion after a person has invested for ten years and created ten jobs.



9.       Create
a new non-immigrant category  for

Somewhat related to the above idea
is the possibility of creating another investor immigration program. This one
would have the following elements:      

a.       Unlike
the E visa categories, this one would not be based on being a national of a qualifying
treaty country.

b.      Applicants
would need to make a $250,000 initial investment ($200,000 if investment in
higher than average unemployment area)

c.       Four
jobs created must be created as a result of the investment (which must be shown
before the visa is extended)

d.      The
visa would be approved for a period of three years

e.      Holders
of the visa can get extensions, but only with an additional $250,000 each time the
extension is requested and only with a demonstration before each extension that
the prior investment resulted in the required job creation).

The investor can apply for a green card any time
after the investor can document that 12 jobs have been created as a result of
the investment.

Do you have an idea to add to the list? Hate these
suggestions? Feel free to chime in.


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  1. George Chell's Avatar
    The best thing to do right now is to increase the mumber of investor visas to buy up surplus housing in states such as Arizona, that is if the Asian or other billionaires want to do it after it got the reputation as the most anti-immigrant state in places such as Singapore and Hong Kong. The visas should put condition that they should buy houses. However, I do not expect Mr. Reid to be able to do anything..the failure of the auto bailiout bill reminds me of the failure of CIR in 2007...(not that I want these guys bailed out..being bought up by one of the foreign corporations is a much better idea..however, after the Dubai Ports fiasco of 2006, many foreign auto corporations and investors are leary). If we want any form of legislation for any field we need to get Mr. Reid replaced...pretty incompetent.
  2. Adi's Avatar
    How about giving green card to everyone who is employed here on H1b or F1 etc, waiting for green card, and is able to buy a house? This will help eliminate housing crisis to certain extent, which is the backbone of this recession.

    I have known countless people (my estimate from July 2007 filing would be around 1 million or more) who want to buy a house. They (like me) are scared to buy a house and then to find that you just lost your job and have to leave the country. Most of these are individuals have very well paying jobs. They are an asset to the country. They contibute huge amount to federal tax,state tax, health care insurance, sales tax, etc. But cannot stabilise their life due to immigration system.

    Unfortunately lot of them are looking to immigrate to Canada/Australia etc just to get on with life. It took US long time to achieve the reputation of freedom/competitive country. This enabled highly qualified individuals to come here and enjoy. It may not take long to lose that reputation.

  3. Another voice's Avatar
    It would be hard for investors or foreign nationals to want to buy houses when they are expected to decline more in value in 2009.

    I think Greg's list is pretty complete giving all people that potentially want to work and live in the US a chance to participate.

    You have to give investors a reason why they should be putting their money here and not somewhere else.

    I continue to say that CIR can be made a part of this by saying to the 12 million you have a choice of paying the fine, putting a down payment for a house or spending money in a new car. Some sales in these assets ought to be generated after all these immigrants have been putting their money under the mattress and are anxious to normalize their situation. In addition to get cough up in their taxes and all that jazz. At some point we have to pay for their bailouts and the more tax payers available the less painful it will be to share the burden.
  4. M's Avatar
    Yes I do have a comment to this text. Create special green card cathegory for Nurses- bring back permanently Schedule A cathegory. Give International Nursing Students green cards after graduating. That will help with filling nurszing shortage - there are so many of these students here, who due to immigration delays are unable to work as nurses. Isnt it silly?
  5. JoeF's Avatar
    The GC quotas for employment-based GCs are a complete joke.
    These people are working already, but they won't do long-term investments like buying a house, getting a new car, etc., due to the limbo they are in for years. I waited with buying a new car until I had a long-term perspective with the actual GC in hand (that was in 2001, during the dot-com crash.)
  6. john's Avatar
    i think before we add new ideas we have to ensure we won't break down the immigration further. If the current situation continues(extra scruitiny & delay in processing), most of the legal immigrants will be out of status and leave the country in either ways. So most important is to stream line and speed up the current processes before considering all these new ideas. Broken car needs fixing before we add leather seats.

    I think all the conservative like Lou have brought us here.It is sad that they even start leaving own brothers in the auto industry. They were injecting fears that america will loose jobs if they have immigrants. Grow up Lou & team. have some loyalty to own country and brothers before teaching morality to others.
    Now the whole jobs are moving. Needs to start thinking big. accept that some jobs are meant to be for others and think big. America is america today because people used to think big.merely providing legal status to people will make most of them buy real estate, buy better insurance, start new businesses. It will be a great nation if people start thinking again BIG
  7. Ren's Avatar
    Here is another one: Treat the ones already here legally with the respect they deserve. Process their applications faster and efficiently and stop being the hypocrite country that US has grown into. "We welcome immigrants but once they are here, we will have them languish in processing crap for ever."
    If this bullshit stops, there would be inflow automatically of both revenue as well as minds.
  8. 's Avatar
    Expect nothing from the govt. the market will correct itself shortly.
  9. cd's Avatar
    how about giving all international students from top schools a fast track green card? im in the top 2% in my batch in a school thats ranked top5 in the world in my field, but im not even certain of getting a work visa ( courtesy the ridiculous lottery)

    if i had a greencard , i would have opened a company and already employed a bunch of americans.

    this is just plain ridiculous and has to be rectified
  10. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    There are a bunch of suggestions that make total sense - but I don't see any of them being implemented any time soon. I am not a pessimist, just being realistic...
  11. George Chell's Avatar
    "There are a bunch of suggestions that make total sense - but I don't see any of them being implemented any time soon. I am not a pessimist, just being realistic..."

    And corporations will use this recession to move jobs abroad and when this recession is over, the computer programming in the US will be pretty near extinct!

  12. George Chell's Avatar
    One thing is happening now that will aggravate the skill shortages in 2011 and 2012. There has been a drop in American students enrolling in top universities due to credit crunch, and a sharp increase in international students. Dont see the racists at CIS and FAIR raising hell about the inability of American students to attend colleges. However, in 2012 when they face the shortages and the businesses want to hire foreign students and ask for an increase in H1-Bs racist Kirkorian and company would be fighting it all the way saying that we need to train more Americans. At that time, someone should ask them where they were in 2008 when the prospective students were facing the credit crunch!
  13. Don McAninch's Avatar
    In this time of high unemployment and overpopulation, it is crucial to start shutting down immigration. Both legal and illegal immigration should be eliminated.
  14. hmm's Avatar
    While I think making F-1 dual intent makes perfect sense, I find your argument on doing it right now non-convincing. In fact, during the depression lots of college graduates will flock to grad schools to sit out the current job market. This is what always happens. Since enrollments are rising in recent years (partly due to demographics and partly due to the same tougher job market for high school graduates), the universities will need cheap labor that grad students deliver.

    I think, the major cost-saving thing the Government could do is to simplify immigration regulations. The US immigration system seems to be far more complex than in any other country and it costs lots of money to maintain. This money could go to better uses in the economy than paying salary to people who just move papers around. CIS should still charge lots of money for its services, indeed what they do sells well, but they should just pocket the money, not pretend they are working hard for them.
  15. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Hmmm... What you say is generally true, but these new students likely won't be going in to the STEM fields. MBA, law and liberal arts grad programs will be busy.
  16. hmm's Avatar
    Greg: maybe my perspective is biased as I teach at engineering school and see lots of American born kids who do want to go to STEM fields. The fact that F-1 isn't dual intent is a nuisance, but I do not think it is a major obstacle in recruiting overseas grad students.
  17. MP's Avatar
    What would be more convenient to immigration lawyers than another layer of CIS bureaucracy added to the mix?
    I'll tell you a simple way to stimulate the US economy using immigration: double or triple the employment based quota for a period of two years to clear the current backlogs. There are currently around 800,000 pending adjustment applications collecting dust in some USCIS warehouse. That's 800,000 people who are right here in the US and whose live have been put on hold for many many years, people who would buy houses, invest in businesses that would create real jobs and pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes to uncle Sam every year. How about that?
  18. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    hmm.. I think years of compelling data speak for itself.
  19. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    MP - I think my writing over the last 18 years speaks for itself as far as supporting the type of suggestion you make. But the focus of my suggestions in this particular article are on measures that are difficult for people to latch on to and say that they cost American workers jobs (though I shouldn't really be surprised that one anti already posted here doing just that). Lowering trade barriers is the smart thing to do when an economy is tanking so reducing immigration restrictions - the most pervasive trade barrier in our system - would make a lot of sense. But the politics of reducing trade barriers can be very tough when people wrongly think going protectionist is the only way to save their jobs.
  20. john's Avatar
    well. everyone should learn from the past experiences. US was on top of the tech world in clinton period and he was very liberal in immigration. During the past 8 years, we saw probably the bottom, when restrictionists pushed their agenda. what these guys dont understand is that the same immigrants create many more jobs (either directly or indirectly). if you think you can kick all the immigrants out and can employ citizens, you will find it hard to build houses/pick fruits or even eat a pizza. lots of jobs are done by immigrants because they are not the first choice of americans.Even in the recession you will still see the same trend. Americans dont do it because of lack of skills or in many cases because of the nature of the job. immmigrants are a second class citizens in every sense. They are here with no promotion(due to immigration restrictions for the more than 5 year old application) and hard work (a slightest breakest in career could cost them their GC). I cannot believe a US worker working day and night and not expecting bonus/promotion in their life for more than 5 or some times ten years. If they are willing to take these jobs go ahead and let us see how long you can survive.
    Immigrants are here to supplement needs of americans and not to destroy them. If you still dont like them, you might loose the entire jobs because companies are heading to move them offshore any way for their profit.
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