Link to the latest issue of Migraton News: http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/
Here's a short section from MN on skilled immigration:
H-1B. The H-1B program allows US employers to hire foreigners with at least a university degree via an easy Internet-based certification process. Employers attest that they are paying the prevailing wage, and DOL is required to approve their applications. Most employers do not have to try to recruit US workers and most may lay off US workers in order to hire foreign workers with H-1B visas.
The protection for US workers is the fact that the number of H-1B visas is capped at 65,000 a year, plus 20,000 for foreigners with advanced degrees from US universities. However, there is no cap on the number of H-1B visas for universities and non-profits, so that in all, over 100,000 H-1B visas a year are issued.
The 65,000 cap for "regular" H-1B visas for private-sector employers was reached on January 26, 2011, four months into FY11. In FY10, the cap was reached on December 21, 2009, three months into FY10, and in 2008 the cap was reached soon after the April 1 date on which employers can request H-1B visas. The 20,000 visas for advanced degree holders in FY11 were gone December 22, 2010.
Foreign graduates of US universities can remain in the US for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) with a US employer. If their degree is in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field, they may stay in the US an additional 18 months, giving their US employers at least two years to obtain H-1B visas for them.
In 2006, foreign students earned 32 percent of doctorates awarded by US universities in sciences and 59 percent of doctorates awarded in engineering. Most foreign students who earn US doctorates in S&E fields stay in the US; many become immigrants and US citizens.
The GAO released a report on the H-1B program that emphasized that fewer than one percent of employer applicants, many of whom are India-based outsourcing firms, have received over 30 percent of H-1B visas in recent years. Almost half of H-1B visa holders are from India, many have advanced degrees, and most are employed in mid-level systems analysts or programming positions in the US.
Brookings' Darrell West in January 2010 urged the US to allow foreign graduates of US universities to stay in the US, and to adjust the number of immigrants admitted for economic reasons annually according to economic indicators such as the unemployment rate. The first idea has been embodied in a bill, the Stopping Trained in America PhDs From Leaving the Economy (STAPLE) Act (HR 399). STAPLE, re-introduced in January 2011, would grant automatic permanent residence to PhD graduates of science and engineering programs and exempt them from caps placed on recipients of H-1B nonimmigrant visas. STAPLE would "staple a green card to their diplomas" of STEM doctorates to avoid having "the next Google or Intel created overseas," according to sponsor Representative Jeff Flake (D-AZ).
President Obama appeared to endorse STAPLE in his January 25, 2011 State of the Union speech. He said: "And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation. It doesn't make sense to grant these students graduate degrees and then send them back home to compete with us."
Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced a StartUp Visa bill (S565) to give employment-based immigrant visas to foreigners who receive significant investment capital to establish a business in the United States that will create at least three new jobs. Foreigners outside the US could obtain two-year probationary immigrant visas by finding a qualified US investor who invested at least $100,000 in their new business. If the new business raises at least $500,000 in additional capital and creates at least five new jobs, the foreigner can receive a regular immigrant visa.