Immigrants from India, China, Asia, and Europe found more jobs in New Jersey than in any other state last year. The Department of Homeland Security granted nearly 46,000 temporary work visas to highly skilled workers coming to New Jersey in 2012—more than double the amount of visas granted in gateway states such as New York and Texas. According to immigration attorneys in New Jersey, the rules governing these temporary work visas may be set to change under new legislation.
Temporary work visas, also known as H-1Bs, are reserved for highly qualified foreign workers seeking jobs in the United States. The federal government gives out 65,000 visas yearly to applicants with specialized skills, and 20,000 visas to those who hold a master's degree or higher from U.S. colleges and universities. Qualifying applicants can work on their visas for three years, and can renew them once more after that. Once their work visas expire, immigrant workers can apply for their green cards, which would allow them to remain in the country for a much longer period.
Senators across the country are proposing legislation to expand the temporary visa program, opening up an initial 115,000 spots for highly skilled foreign applicants, with plans to provide more visas if the demand for skilled workers continues to grow. Along with this proposal, New Jersey immigration lawyers say that plans for limiting the pool of qualifying candidates to those with hard-to-find talents are underway. "The (H-1B) program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment," one senator noted in a statement supporting the program's expansion, provided visas are restricted to those foreign workers with the highest credentials.
Although New Jersey companies would benefit from more visas being extended to foreign workers, the measures proposed to eliminate less-qualified workers may cut back on hiring opportunities for employers. Larsen Toubro Infotech, an Edison engineering company headquartered in India, applied for 40,000 work visas in 2012, while the Secaucus Ernst & Young requested 2,500 foreign workers. These businesses may find their applicant pools diminishing if the more stringent legislation goes forward this year.
Expanding the H-1B program may cut back on jobs being outsourced to other companies, New Jersey immigration attorneys note. Often, cost prohibits employers from bringing a limitless number of foreign workers to the country to work on-site, and many companies have been outsourcing to offices in India and Asia. With more visas, and more funding for the H-1B program, employers may have an easier time affording foreign workers with the skills they need.
This year the government has proposed extensive reforms to the immigration system, in an effort to provide opportunities for Americans and foreign workers alike. For many applicants, the temporary work visa program is a foot in the door—or the country. Immigration lawyers in New Jersey say that these proposals will include the expansion plan for the work visa program, and could bring more talent to America's companies.
The experienced immigration attorneys at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, represent foreign workers seeking to establish themselves permanently in the United States.