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Old 04-12-2006, 01:33 PM
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Default IV featured in News Observer: a New and Exhaustive News Article!

As I had already posted in the news article thread, this is an exhaustive article with a bold and thought provoking headlines. The article can be accessed here - http://www.newsobserver.com/104/story/427793.html

Many skilled foreigners leaving U.S.
Exodus rooted in backlog for permanent status

Karin Rives, Staff Writer

When the Senate immigration bill fell apart last week, it did more than stymie efforts to deal with illegal immigration.

It derailed efforts to deal with an equally vexing business concern: a backlog in applications for so-called green cards, the coveted cards that are actually pink or white and that offer proof of lawful permanent residency.

Many people now wait six years or longer for the card. There are 526,000 applications pending, according to Immigration Voice, an advocacy group that tracks government data.

Lately, this has prompted an exodus of foreign workers who tired of waiting, to return home or go further afield. With the economies in Asia and elsewhere on the rise, they can easily find work in the native countries or in third nations that are more generous with their visas.

"You have China, Russia, India -- a lot of countries where you can go and make a lot of money. That's the biggest thing that has changed," said Murali Bashyam, a Raleigh immigration lawyer who helps companies sponsor immigrants. "Before, people were willing to wait it out. Now they can do just as well going back home, and they do."

Mike Plueddeman said he lost three employees (one a senior programmer with a doctorate) at Durham-based DynPro in the past two years because they tired of waiting for their green cards.

All three found good jobs in their home countries within a few weeks of leaving Durham, said Plueddeman, the software consultancy's human resource director.

"We are talking about very well-educated and highly skilled people who have been in the labor force a long time," he said. "You hate losing them."

This budding brain drain comes as the first American baby boomers retire and projections show a huge need for such professionals in the years ahead. U.S. universities graduate about 70,000 information technology students annually. Many people say that number won't meet the need for a projected 600,000 additional openings for information systems professionals between 2002 and 2012, and the openings made by retirements.

"We just don't have the pipeline right now," said Joe Freddoso, director of Cisco Systems' Research Triangle Park operations. "We are concerned there's going to be a shortage, and we're already seeing that in some areas."

Cisco has advertised an opening for a data-security specialist in Atlanta for several months, unable to find the right candidate. Freddoso believes the problem will spread unless the government allows more foreign workers to enter the country, and expedites their residency process.

However, not everybody believes in the labor shortage that corporations fret about.

Critics say that proposals to allow more skilled workers into the country would only depress wages and displace American-born workers who have yet to fully recover from the dot-com bust.

"We should only issue work-related visas if we really need them," said Caroline Espinosa, a spokeswoman with NumbersUSA, a Washington, D.C., group pushing for immigration reduction. "There are 2.5 million native born American workers in the math and computer field who are currently out of work. It begs the question whether we truly need foreign workers."

She added that the immigration backlog would be aggravated by raising the cap for temporary and permanent visas, which would make it harder for those who deserve to immigrate to do so.

Waiting since 2003

Sarath Chandrand, 44, a software consultant from India, moved with his wife and two young daughters from Raleigh to Toronto in December because he couldn't live with more uncertainty. He applied for his green card in early 2003 and expects it will take at least two more years to get it.

His former employer continues to sponsor his application for permanent residency, hoping that he will eventually return. But Chandrand doesn't know what the future will hold.

"I miss Raleigh, the weather, the people," he said in a phone interview. "But it's a very difficult decision to make, once you've settled in a country, to move out. You go through a lot of mental strain. Making another move will be difficult."

Canada won him over because its residency process takes only a year and a half and doesn't require sponsorship from an employer.

The competition from Canada also worries Plueddeman, who said several of his employees are also applying for residency in both countries. "They'll go with whoever comes first," he said.

And it's not just India and Canada that beckon. New Zealand and Australia are among nations that actively market themselves to professionals in the United States, with perks such as an easy process to get work visas.

New Zealand, with a population of 4 million, has received more than 1,900 applications from skilled migrants and their families in the past two years, said Don Badman, the Los Angeles marketing director for that country's immigration agency. Of those, about 17 percent were non-Americans working in the United States.

Badman's team has hired a public relations agency to get the word out. They have also run ads in West Coast newspapers and attended trade shows, mainly to attract professionals in health care and information technology.

Dana Hutchison, an operating room nurse from Cedar Mountain south of Asheville, could have joined a hospital in the United States that offers fat sign-on bonuses. Instead, she's in the small town of Tauranga, east of Auckland, working alongside New Zealand nurses and doctors.

"It would be hard for me to work in the U.S. again," she said. Where she is now, "the working conditions are so fabulous. Everybody is friendly and much less stressed. It's like the U.S. was in the 1960s."

Limit of 140,000

Getting a green card was never a quick process. The official limit for employment-based green cards is 140,000 annually.

And there is a bottleneck of technology professionals from India and China. They hold many, if not most, of all temporary work visas, and many try to convert their work visa to permanent residency, and eventually full citizenship. But under current rules, no single nationality can be allotted more than 7 percent of the green cards.

In his February economic report, President Bush outlined proposals to overhaul the system for employment-based green cards:

* Open more slots by exempting spouses and children from the annual limit of 140,000 green cards. Such dependents now make up about half of all green card recipients, because workers sponsored by employers can include their family in the application.

* Replace the current cap with a "flexible market-based cap" that responds to the need that employers have for foreign workers.

* Raise the 7 percent limit for nations such as India that have many highly skilled workers.

After steady lobbying from technology companies, Congress is also paying more attention to the issue. The Senate immigration bill had proposed raising the annual cap for green cards to 290,000.

Kumar Gupta, a 33-year-old software engineer, has been watching the legislative proposals as he weighs his options. After six years in the United States, he is considering returning to India after learning that the green card he applied for in November 2004 could take another four or five years.

Being on a temporary work visa means that he cannot leave his job. Nor does he want to buy a home for his family without knowing he will stay in the country.

"Even if the job market is not as good as here, you can get a very good salary in India," he said. "If I have offers there, I will think of moving."

Let's utilize this write up and start quoting the link in our personal comments / emails to other news anchors, commentators, blogs etc.
I thought this deserves it's own thread. Please comment and act.

Last edited by admin; 04-12-2006 at 05:24 PM. Reason: Put the content of the full article
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Old 04-12-2006, 01:56 PM
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Thanks for putting up the link Learning01. Karin got in touch with us and I had several calls with her cluing her into the facts and figures. She herself is an immigrant from Sweden.

Good to see our leads payoff.

best,
Berkeleybee
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