Monthly Archives: November 2015

The O Visa Wouldn’t Be So Popular If the H-1Bs Didn’t Always Run Out!

nobel_226pxAs explained in a recent Daily Journal article titled “Demand for extraordinary worker visas grows,” by Steven Crighton, a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa that’s sort of a pain to get–and not even profitable for lawyers to help with, in most cases–has been zooming upward in popularity recently.

It’s the O-1 visa, meant for outstanding workers who have a job offer in the U.S. to do specialized work in the sciences, arts, athletics, education, or business.

It’s not the sort of work visa you might choose to apply for if you had another choice readily open to you. The O-1 application process does, after all, involve proving that you’ve got extraordinary ability in your field and have received sustained national or international acclaim for it. You know, just pull out your Olympic medal or Man-Booker Prize (or at least your nomination for one of them).

Indeed, providing proof of such amazing-ness is not easy. Applicants will have to collect a big stack of documents–testimonials, employments contracts, critical reviews, endorsements, and so on. According to San Francisco attorney Kirsten Schlenger, who was quoted in the article, the immigration-lawyer tradition of charging flat fees often makes working on an O-1 “very unprofitable,” because “You always end up putting in so much more effort and time into them.”

So why has the number of O-1 filings more than doubled between 2004 and 2014, going from 6,981 to 15,164 (according to the U.S. Department of State)?

Simple: The visa that would have been most appropriate for many of these applicants is the H-1B, for temporary specialty workers. Only 85,000 H-1Bs can legally be given out per year. Last year, 230,000 people applied for them. That means many people were turned away not because they were ineligible, but simply because they weren’t lucky enough to be chosen out of the pile.

So, many workers’ O-1 applications may involve the equivalent of putting a square peg into a round (dare we say O-shaped?) hole. But at least the U.S.’s clunky and often irrational immigration system still provides this opening.

O’Malley Wants Fact-Checking? How About Language Checking?

borderIn the Saturday, November 15 CBS Democratic debate, presidential candidate Martin O’Malley responded to a question about U.S. border security as follows:

The truth of the matter is, net immigration from Mexico last year was zero. Fact check me. Go ahead. Check it out.

Several news outlets and fact-checking organizations took him up on the challenge.

But they mostly failed to pick up on a critical distinction, which actually determines whether he’s right or wrong (a distinction that probably worries every Mexican-American who listened to the debates):

Was O’Malley talking only about the immigration of undocumented persons (commonly referred to as “illegal immigration”), or about all immigration of Mexicans to the United States?

After all, according to U.S. government statistics, well over 100,000 people born in Mexico typically obtain lawful permanent residence (a green card) each year. They may do so through employers, marriage, and other entirely legal categories under U.S. immigration law.

O’Malley used only the word “immigration,” with no reference to this distinction. If ALL Mexican immigrants are what he meant to describe, he’s actually wrong.

According to data gathered by PolitiFact, the overall number of Mexican-born people living in the U.S. (a figure that would capture both documented and undocumented immigrants) was actually up by a couple hundred in 2014. Not a huge deal, but not “zero,” either.

It’s only when you look at the numbers of UNDOCUMENTED immigrants that O’Malley’s net-zero statement checks out, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

So, which is it, O’Malley? Was your language wrong, or were your facts wrong? It’s one or the other. Either way, someone running for the highest office in the U.S. needs to develop an acute awareness of difference between a legal immigrant and an undocumented one.