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Going Overseas for Talent

There’s hope for businesses desperately seeking high-tech employees. It’s called an immigration attorney.

With the number of high-tech graduates lagging the increase in industry demand by a wide margin in the U.S., firms have been forced to look beyond America’s borders for the workers they need.

The “visa of choice,” especially for multinational companies, is the L-1 visa, said Mitch Wexler, an attorney with Hirson Wexler Perl & Stark, at an employment seminar last week in Irvine. And if there is any likelihood an employee will apply for a green card, then the company should apply for the L-1A visa over the L-1B. A green card establishes a worker as a permanent resident in the U.S.

“The L-1A is the fast track to a green card,” Wexler said.

The L-1A visa is valid for seven years, whereas the L-1B is valid for five years, he noted.

If a short-term worker is needed, then a company can apply for a B-1 visitor visa. But there are limitations to a B1 visa. For example, the worker must not get paid by a U.S. company and must leave at the end of the designated stay. Wexler said businesses should stay away from the B-2 visa because it is a “visitor for pleasure” visa.

In order to get a worker in a hurry, the TN visa is the way to go, Wexler said.

“Literally, a TN person can come in tomorrow,” he said.

But the workers can only come from NAFTA countries.

“So, when you have recruiting woes, think Canada,” he said.

The validity period of a TN visa is indefinite, but it is applied for in one-year to four-year increments.

An O-1 visa is designed for a “real hotshot,” who has no degree and can’t get an L-1 visa. The validity period is five years.

The most popular temporary visa is the H-1B, which is good for six years. In order to qualify, a worker must have a relevant bachelor’s degree, the job must require that degree and the company has to pay the prevailing wage, he said. However, if the worker doesn’t have a college degree, the “3 for 1” rule applies. That means three years of work experience equals one year of college, so a company would need to bring in an employee with at least 12 years of experience.

The downside of the H-1B is that only 115,000 are given out annually. That cap is expected to be reached by February next year, he said.

And if the employer is feeling lucky, there is the diversity lottery for permanent resident visas, Wexler said. Each year, 55,000 permanent resident visas are given out to qualified applicants. However, eligibility requirements are tough and there are about 9 million applicants.

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