Grasmick's U.S. Business Immigration News for Canadians 1998 Archives, July-Dec.
As reported here earlier (Fierce New Border Controls, June 22, 1998) Section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 requires the Immigration and Naturalization Service to develop and implement an automated system of entry and exit controls. These new formalities would apply to every non-U.S. citizen coming into and leaving the United States. Section 110 will cause interminable traffic congestion and back-ups at the borders.
Prudent members of Congress such as John LaFalce led this opposition. This law will have a serious and negative impact on trade, tourism, and the U.S. economy. Section 110 will be a burden to U.S. citizens and visitors alike. I hope Congress eventually repeals the law completely.
(November 1, 1998)
Must a person's college major match a particular TN job title?
Not always. Consider the outcome on a sliding scale: the closer the match the better the chance of success. Here are possible outcomes:
How to Improve Your Chances
When the linkage is weak, here are some strategies:
An immigration lawyer's skills are particularly useful to:
Consider other immigration strategies if you cannot show linkages:
Is the H-1 the Answer?
While you should evaluate eligibility for the H-1, the TN better serves most Canadians. H-1 permits also require specific bachelor's degrees and tight relationships between the degree and the job. See the H-1 page for exceptional "work experience substitute for degree" rules.
»Analysis« (November 1, 1998)
Alice Plante---a free-lance writer for CNN and ComputerWorld---recently interviewed me. Her job was to find the relationship between NAFTA immigration and IT companies. Here is the text of the interview:
1. Can you tell me about the services you provide that specifically address helping Canadian nationals legally accept IT positions in the United States? (ComputerWorld is very focused on the "IT angle", as you probably know.)
My law practice is dedicated to Canadians working in the US. I represent Canadian companies sending workers to the U.S. and U.S. companies hiring Canadians. The preponderance -- if not the majority -- of people I help are in the IT Professions.
Knowledge is the Ammunition
Specifically I prepare immigration applications to allow people to work in the US. Actually, most of my work is in "putting the deal together". It is a people job. It is a teaching job. I spend most my time on the phone or exchanging email. This means getting the employer and the employee on the same song sheet. It also means working with various actors in the employer's organization.
These actors include legal counsel and HR managers who must implement corporate policy. It also includes the prospective candidate's new manager who will be helped or hurt the most by the candidate's presence or absence. There is an interesting dynamic because the manager is the one most willing to help the candidate. At the same time, the HR and legal folks are the ones with the most information on how to bring this about. They also wield the authority. I try to channel the manager's enthusiasm and provide the ammunition he or she needs to get the employee on board. This ammunition is knowledge.
My practice is national, paperless and entirely Internet based. I had a head start, with a website in March 1995---the first law firm in Western New York. I use the Internet to "put the deal together" as mentioned above. Then, I shuffle the INS required "paper" electronically between the lawyers helping the various parties and me. This is a lot easier now. In the "olden days", 1995-1997, many folks with hiring authority did not use e-mail. I had to use a "fax to e-mail" link or ask them to use their child's computer at night, to expedite the case. Initial consultations are virtually eliminated, since the time-consuming basic education is done by the website. I always take pride in knowing that many executives and lawyers sent me their first e-mail!
2. How much activity do you see in this area (U.S. firms recruiting IT professionals from Canada?)
What helped, is that most of my clients are in the IT professions and comfortable with using the Internet. There is much activity in this area.
Are Companies Hiring More Canadians Now?
3. How does current activity compare to levels in previous years?
I think the level is about the same as last year but much higher than years before. NAFTA immigration provisions work hand in hand with facilitating the flow across the border.
4. How has NAFTA changed the level of activity?
I do not know if NAFTA is the cause but it's certainly helps.
The main contribution of NAFTA is speed. Timing is the most important consideration to our clients. Getting the employee on board quickly is what everybody wants. NAFTA allows for on the spot work permits, which we can obtain for our clients at the Peace Bridge. Otherwise applicants must wait a long time -- much longer than employers are willing to wait. This gives Canadians an edge over citizens of other countries who must often wait months for their work permit. What employer can wait three or four months to fill a contract?
Employers Need Information
5. What are the biggest challenges facing U.S. employers who wish to hire Canadian nationals for IT work?
The biggest challenge facing U.S. employers is the lack of experience and knowledge in tapping international labor markets. American employers should include Canadian provinces in their recruitment universe. Ironically it may be easier for an Ontario based Canadian to take job in nearby Rochester NY but psychologically the employer may favor an underqualified Los Angeles based resident. We Americans are quite used to looking only within our own borders. Even with a hundred percent Canadian client base I would be hard pressed to tell you how much postage it takes to put on a letter to Canada! I still like to think that "35" degrees is cold.
But now, there are new challenges! First pick up any business magazine. The weak point in the U.S. economy is lack of qualified people to fill positions. Even lawyers are now again in demand! Companies cannot raise prices to increase profits because of low inflation. Additional gains in productivity are hard to come by. The only way left to improve profits is to fill those vacant positions. This is true in the economy generally not just the IT Professions.
The second challenge is that shortages of U.S. IT workers are especially acute.
Finally there is overall globalization of our economy. For these reasons we can no longer limit ourselves to U.S. employment markets. The savvy employer who will succeed will have the ability to tap Canadian employment markets. Canadians, with similar culture, education and business backgrounds, are up and running. Furthermore they can provide the expertise to help a U.S. employer tap into the Canadian market. Employers can draw up logical geographical regions, crossing international borders, using the same employee to service both.
At the same time there is an incredible ignorance of the immigration rules on the part of U.S. employers. Employers either feel that it used to easy or too hard.
First, "two hard": More than one judge has said that immigration rules are second only to tax in terms of complexity. There is only one acronym that strikes more fear in the heart of American employers than the " IRS" -- that is the " INS". This is especially true if an employer has ever had a bad experience with immigration rules. For these reasons this first group of employers are afraid. Employers who have had a previous bad experience are gun shy. Simply put U.S. employers are not taking advantage of simplified NAFTA procedures for Canadians.
Second, the "too easy" group: because of the ease which Canadian Americans cross the northern border with a "smile a wave" this group feels that immigration is not even an issue. They feel the work permits are the same as easy tourist procedures. Canada is but a 51st State. They feel there is no need for professional legal assistance. The perception is that crossing the border is no more difficult than applying for driver's license. Employers who proceed correctly may than get advance legal advice revealing the unforeseen need for a work permit. By the time they get this advice they are already desperate for the candidate's presence. Worse yet, some employers will proceed without advice. These employers and their employees often get snagged at the border. Once this happens they forever fall into the first category: "too hard"
Canadian's Face Big Hurdles
6. What are the challenges facing Canadian nationals seeking IT work in the States?
Canadian nationals seeking IT work have to deal with all this. First they have to make themselves part of the prospective employers recruitment universe. Then, they have to convince the employee to hire them and have to educate the employer! (See the book Spin Selling which talks about the education function in providing a product where various decision-makers have to make the decision.) This is probably the main function of our WebSite. Employees will often print out pages to give employers. They have to figure out into which category they fit. They then have to provide information to the employer so that the employer is not afraid of immigration rules.
They have to do all of this within a brief time frame because in hiring, "timing is everything". By the time an employer advertises for positions it is already too late. The position needs to have been filled weeks ago.
Another barrier is working spouses. NAFTA does not yet give automatic work permission to spouses and family members. Working spouses is the "HR issue of the 90s". Look at the "Immigration" topic of our Forum for a sampling of this frustration. There are two other websites dedicated to just this issue! Linda Deck has devoted her life to the issue. She wrote a book on the topic. It would be nice to interview her, but you will have some competition she has a full schedule of media interviews, as you can see from her post! Also look at the question about working spouses on the FAQ for technical details.
Does Money Motivate Canadians?
7. What is the primary motivation for Canadians to relocate to the U.S.? Money? Opportunity?
The primary motivation for Canadians relocating to the U.S. is probably much the same as that for Americans deciding to move to another State. In the IT professions people tend to migrate toward the high-tech centers such as San Jose CA and Boston MA. There are also niche markets requiring geographical moves to certain areas of the country. For example year 2000 considerations draw IT specialist to financial centers. Banks are good customers for year 2000 remediation efforts. Another niche is call centers, which are located in "low wage" areas of the country.
Another big incentive is the weather. Both Americans and Canadians like to follow the sun. Over 12% of Canadians, who get permanent green cards, do so in Florida.
My clients move to the U.S. both temporarily and permanently. Many go back Canada after a stint in the US. Many stay. The clients who go back to Canada are usually those who followed economic rather than life-style incentives.
Secret to Successful North American Deals
8. How do U.S. employers and Canadian nationals "find" each other? Job fairs? Headhunters? Classified ads? The Web?
My clients usually find each other through recruiters or personal contacts. If somebody is using our services the candidate is usually high-level and a member of a small professional universe. Word-of-mouth is very important. This word-of-mouth also includes Internet communication. I guess that many other employers and employees find each other through classified ads, the Internet and job fairs. I would also guess that these people do the immigration work themselves. In these cases employers would hire people who can file clearly approvable routine ("cookie cutter") immigration applications and would not hire people falling in "gray areas" of immigration law.
I hope this information helps you. I also suggest that you review some sections of the WebSite which directly respond to your questions. Look at the FAQespecially the questions concerning "why should we hire a Canadian" and "my employer feels a green card is a passport to leave..." Also look at the employment topic of our Forum which deals with these very issues. John Chettleburgh is the Topic administrator. He is one of the few people I know with such a high level of Canada to U.S. IT clientele. Mark Serbinski is also the authority on the financial aspects of a Canada to U.S. move. He is the administrator of our "Tax and Financial" Forum.
(November 1, 1998)
The INS approved a fast-track Green Card for a firearms instructor. The National Interest Waiver applicant had a Masters degree in Physical Education. Exceptional ability was demonstrated by experience: (1) nine years' as a firearms instructor; (2) as a witness before the House of Commons Special Committee on Firearms in Canada; and, (3) numerous instructor certifications. She authored of five books and numerous articles on firearms, hunting, and shooting. She also organized and provided firearms safety programs to hundreds of people in Florida and was a volunteer Hunter Education Instructor for the State of Florida.
The applicant's immigration lawyer demonstrated "national interest" by: (1) a Florida law which states that it is "a matter of public policy and fact that it is necessary to promote firearms safety"; (2) a federal law for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety; and (3) articles in journals that show the high personal and monetary cost of firearms accidental injury and deaths, and that firearms safety training could reduce such accidents. Letters of support were provided by a Florida legislative representative, a hunter education officer for Florida Game and Fish, a police department captain, the presidents of the United States Practical Shooting Association and Florida Shooting Sports Association, and other firearms experts.
The lawyer also focused on applicant's volunteer work including teaching and writing about firearms safety.
(Courtesy of The American Immigration Lawyers Association and David Etherington)
(November 1, 1998)
The following is an approved national interest waiver for a chemist with an undergraduate degree in pharmacy, a masters degree in Analytic Chemistry and two years professional experience as a chemist for a flavor manufacturer. The Chemist successfully avoided the time consuming individual labor certification.
This chemist was sponsored by a flavor manufacturer. The product development chemist had an undergraduate degree in pharmacy, a masters degree in Analytic Chemistry, and two years professional experience as a chemist.
Documentation included letters of recommendation from a former professor documenting the outstanding nature of the applicants research capabilities, and from an expert in the flavor industry who testified as to the importance of applicants work to major consumer product manufacturers, as well as the uniqueness of her combination of professional skills and abilities.
Because of the company's non-disclosure policy, the applicant had only a handful of relevant publications published prior to obtaining her masters degree. Documentation of national interest came from the executive director of an industry research council authenticating the size of the flavor market and the importance of applicants contributions to the U.S. flavor industry and to the U.S. economy. A university professor emphasized the significant advantages to U.S. corporations planning to do business in China of hiring Chinese-born staff. Several magazine articles were included. These articles showed the growing consumer preference for brand-name food products in China. They also predicted dramatic growth in consumer demand in the U.S. for certain flavors. Finally, a U.S. senator requested full consideration of the petition.
It was argued that without the applicants participation, foreign production of key flavors would remain in disarray. The supply of uniform and high quality flavors would not be able to meet the needs of U.S. manufacturers of consumer products. The U.S. would lose its advantage in the contest to capture consumer loyalties in developing economies.
(Courtesy of James P. Eyster and the American Immigration Lawyers Association)
(November 1, 1998)
Make sure your L-1 application is bulletproof. Even you get by at the airport, you may be surprised. You could find a rejection notice in the mail!
Here is a question and answer during a meeting of members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Adjudications office of the INS:
Managers are invited to have us review their L-1 petitions before filing.
(November 1, 1998)
The long trip to the border may become longer. Make sure your lawyer ascertains current practice at the port of entry adjudicating your NAFTA application. Idiosyncracies abound.
Here is an example: Canadians appearing at Blaine or Vancouver can be turned away if all documents are not originals. Here is a question and answer during a meeting of members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Adjudications office of the INS:
»Analysis« (October 10, 1998)
Opportunities abound for fast-track national interest waiver green cards. If you work on any of these issues, consult with employer to see if we can get an application started. Put me in touch with your employer if you think this would help. If you are an employer, call me to see how to keep a valued employee on your staff. It may shave years off the Green card wait.
NIWs are especially attractive. One national immigration expert predicts an additional 8-10 month backlog coming in individual labor certifications. Individual labor certification Green Cards can now take years.
The Miami Herald Monday, June 8, 1998:
Educational Internet Applications
Gore continues discussing national problems quoted in a recent article in USA Today. He points out that getting the Internet into schools is of the highest national interest. (It follows that IT specialists involved in any way with educational Internet applications should take a look at the NIW.)
According to USA Today Vice President Gore announced that school districts in all 50 states will receive 423 million dollars this year in federal funds. These months are to buy computers, train teachers how to use them and link schools to the Internet. Moreover the grant marks the second year of a five year billion dollar program called the Technology Challenge Literacy Fund. The goal of the fund is to connect every classroom to the information superhighway by year 2000.
Potential national interest waiver applicants should always pay attention to these announcements. In fact ordinarily announcements like this would come from the Education department. In this case the White House is spotlighting the program because of the administration's special focus on education and Vice President Gore's interest in cyberspace.
Here is related news of a recently approved National Interest Waiver for a PhD Education:
Department of Energy Seeks New Technology
According to the Buffalo News, the U.S. Department of Energy has introduced programs designed to fund advances in automotive technologies. This includes production of highly fuel efficient, low-emission and fuel-flexible cars and trucks.
Potential topics of interest include alternative fuel, batteries, compression ignition, direct ignition, fly wheel energy storage, fuel cells and vehicle systems.
Fight cyber crime -- get a green card
Top law enforcement officials from the world's major industrial nations are working on international strategies for combating the growing problem of computer crime. These crimes include the transmission of child pornography through the Internet, money laundering and fraud. Attorney General Janet Reno herself posted a session on computer crime with her international counterparts. Here is a particularly quotable statement by Ms. Reno:
Counteracting computer security threats commands Executive Branch priority.
In a recent speech President Clinton advocated a "national information-protection plan. He envisions cooperation between the public and private sectors to combat cyber attacks. Per Newsweek (June 1, The Secret Hacker Wars) he fears "that clever hackers for foreign governments or terrorists could wreak havoc, shutting down power grids, cleaning out banks and blinding air-traffic control."
This problem is agency-wide. One recent example shows the current opportunities. ZDNet revealed on May 29 1998 that Department of Energy web security is under fire. An internal review of unclassified computer systems in major DOE facilities found major security lapses. These lapses included classified and sensitive nuclear weapons information open to anyone with Internet access. MSNBC reports DOE administrators are scrambling to implement a "contamination clean-up."
The U.S. Department of Energy forecasts that electricity rates nationwide eventually will drop 20 percent because of deregulation. Lower income people and retirees on fixed incomes will be clear winners according to the energy department. Lower income people are especially favored in many national interest waiver criteria.
Energy conservation touches on many areas of the national interest: more affordable housing for lower income people, improvement in the balance of tray and job creation from less foreign energy dependencies, and improvement to the environment through cleaner sources of energy.
New Robot Technology
Business Week (March 30, 1998) discusses a crucial need for people involved with mobile robots and these functions:
Y2K Justifying Permanent NIW
Are U.S. Y2K opportunities only short-term, not worthy of a long-term move from Canada (and green card)? It looks like this may be a long-term national project. According to Business Week (March 30 1998 "Exterminating the Millennium Bug"):
Per Tech Web News
The 1996 Telecommunications Act directed the government to assure advanced telecommunications services would be available to all Americans as soon as possible.
Preserving Digital Data
20% of NASA's 1976 Viking mission data has been lost. POW, MIA and casualty records from the Vietnam War can no longer be read by Defense Dept. records. Penn State Univ can only read 14 of 3000 computer files containing student records.
Business Week (April 20, 1998 From Dust to Digits) reports this urgent situation---and the Federal Government's concern. At issue: media is turning out to be fragile.
BW provides examples of Federal Government concerns that could involve your NIW application:
Are your or your company working on any such projects?
(October 10, 1998)
One of our latest TN-1 approvals was for an IT expert in the banking industry. The bank urgently needed this Canadian to oversee the year 2000 efforts. As with many IT specialists, our clients had no academic credentials whatsoever. On the other hand, he had almost 20 years of experience.
The challenge was showing our client qualifies under the TN-1 management consultant category. This category is under fire at the border. There is a perception that it has been abused. INS carefully scrutinizes all applications.
We were successful here because simply our client was a management consultant. He coordinates work of other computer systems analysts and programmers. His work focused on the interface between the technical computer work and management considerations of the bank. We personally walked our client through the border procedures and received his permit on this spot---in minutes.
(October 10, 1998)
The IT industry faces a crisis: a profound shortage of executive level management talent. This, according to Marco Antonio Muñoz of Heidrick & Struggles' International Technology Practice.
The employer's financial support for candidates' work visa and green card can go a long way to help meet this need. According to Mr. Muñoz:
Immigration assistance can help fulfill Mr. Muñoz' recommendations:
Successful employers will look beyond the border to recruit the most qualified candidate. It is easy to add Canadian provinces to your recruitment universe. This increases your chance of quick success. Once armed with the facts our clients find that the costs of providing an immigration work permit are small when compared to the employee's bottom line contribution. Immigration benefits are a highly leveraged part of a compensation package. There are other solid reasons for expanding your recruitment into Canada.
Once hired, employers should consider retaining the employee by supporting a permanent green card application. The green card is a valuable fringe benefit that employers can confer on employees. Although it may seem expensive, the perceived and actual benefits to you greatly exceed the expense to the employer. The green card gives tremendous advantages to both employer and employee.
Ohio State economic development agrees:
In the last few weeks two of our client employers successfully filled high-level positions with Canadians. The employees were producing within a matter of days, using the quick TN border procedures. Crucial to attracting these candidates was full promise and support of fast-track green card applications.
Even when not part of the original contract, consider offering your Canadian employee green card benefits. In this economical environment employee replacement costs can be devastating. A recent study published in Business Week reports that the preponderance of companies interviewed attached costs of from $10,000-$30,000+ to replace an employee that cannot be retained. Chances are that if you do not provide this security the employee will find someone who will.
(October 10, 1998)
Will you be doing business in upstate New York? According to Toby Wollin of the NYSEG Economic Development, his organization can do this for you:
Do not overlook this valuable resource. NYSEG Economic Development provides complete site selection and expansion services for companies (US and outside) interested in their 44-county territory in Upstate New York ("our service area covers from Northern Westchester up through Plattsburgh, suburban Albany to suburban Buffalo -- we don't get the urban centers, though -- the biggest city we have is Binghamton"). If you are going to this geographical area contact Toby. Find other resources on my Rolodex.
(October 10, 1998)
Our readers in the IT profession will be pleased by this news: INS just approved a National Interest Waiver Green Card petition for a Software Engineer.
Winning an NIW approval can cut years off the Green Card wait. (See more at the FAQ.) The engineer specializes in Software Optimization Technology, has a Ph.D. in Computational Mechanics, an M.S. in Structural Engineering, and a B.S. in Civil Engineering. The petition showed that contributions to the development and dissemination of cutting edge research in the field of software engineering and development would be invaluable to the advancement of software optimization in the U.S. Arguments emphasized the person's work in computer systems, parallel processing and software together. The application package proved benefits to the communications, defense, and industrial manufacturing industries. Work was argued to be in the national interest due to government interest and funding of his work. Vast projected economic benefits will flow from the software applications.
Other Lucky Professionals
Here are some other recent "super Green Card" approvals:
(October 10, 1998)
We just received another of our very own approvals under the National Interest Waiver. The approval resulted in an expedited green card for our client. All were pleased---especially the employee's spouse!
This fast-track approval was quite timely for our engineer client. He was reaching the final few months available on H-1 status. The approval was especially well received: the engineer's spouse had been unable to work during the many years on derivative H-4 status. (See the FAQ question re: working spouses for more infirmation)
This client is an engineer and employing company that manufacture and export equipment used in the mining and petroleum industry. Particularly crucial to the approval was our showing that the engineer increased U.S. exports to one of the big emerging markets---one of the high in national priorities of the Commerce Department. We were able to obtain a letter from a federal government agency supporting the application---another crucial step.
We are grateful to the remarkable degree of cooperation we received from the employer which facilitated this success.
(July 2, 1998)
Recruiters play an increasingly important role in putting the Canadian together with the U.S. job. As things tighten in certain employment markets, recruiters are essential.
They must answer this question: Why should the employer be troubled with immigration procedures? The following e-mail exchange shows how even these skilled matchmakers are challenged:
Successful recruiters must answer the question. Here is how to do it: (Incidently if you are not a recruiter, pass this information along to yours via our Inform Others button.)