By Attorney Farhad Sethna © 2014
In other articles on this blog, I had written about self-sponsorship through a business set up and operated by a foreign student or recent graduate. This article takes that one step further – by reporting on another “twist” to that potential for self-employment: a creative way to retain highly educated non-immigrant students through a state-education partnership.
In April 2014, Governor Deval L. Patrick of Massachusetts announced a bold plan to help foreign students who have graduated from universities in Massachusetts. An estimated 46,000 foreign students are enrolled in that state. Given the huge backlog in immigrant visas and the shortage of H-1b visas (those visas have been over subscribed the last four fiscal calendar years), Governor Patrick announced a bold and imaginative plan.
Background on H-1b visas and the visa cap:
As background, each fiscal year, a limited number of new H-1b’s can be issued. That number is limited to 20,000 H1b’s for non-immigrants with US-issued master degree’s or higher, plus another 65,000 H-1b’s for non-US degree or US-issued Bachelor’s degree holders. However, there is no “Cap” for H-1b’s who are either directly hired by an institution of higher education, a non-profit research organization, or an entity which is “affiliated” with an institution of higher education.
What is the plan?
Under Governor Patrick’s plan, the state of Massachusetts created a “Global Entrepreneur in Residence” (GER) program. That program is administered by the Massachussetts Tech Collaborative (MTC), an independent state agency. That entity is affiliated with all of the state and private universities in Massachusetts. The intent of the program is for the MTC to select and foreign students and match them up with state and private colleges and universities for part-time research-related or other positions which would use their advanced degree skills.
How does this help a highly educated foreign student non-immigrant to remain in the country?
By forming a separate entity (the MTC), Governor Deval Patrick has created an “affiliated” entity which is recognized under current immigration regulations. If that entity can place students in cap-exempt positions, those foreign students could be hired in H-1b status without any numerical restrictions. This would retain highly skilled and highly educated individuals within the state of Massachusetts in order to work on projects deemed important by the non-profit entity and by the institutions it is affiliated with.
Through the affiliation, an individual may obtain H-1b status. Since this affiliation removes the H-1b from being counted against the Cap, there is virtually an unlimited supply of H-1b’s for individuals who are hired through the non-profit entity.
What’s the catch?
The key issue on this arrangement remains funding. Any H-1b, whether hired full-time or part-time, will need to be compensated, and that too at the “prevailing wage” or rate set by the US government. This is generally “real world” wage which means that the non-profit will have to come up with substantial funds to pay salaries to the H-1b employees. Governor Patrick is seeking an annual budget of US $ 3 million. But given the high salaries in the State, that will provide funding for only a small number of H-1b employees. The agency is seeking additional sponsorship from other sources. As the amount of funds grows, so will the number of students the program can support.
How this concept will ultimately function and whether it will be financially viable remains to be seen. However, for those individuals who could not get an H-1b visa through private business and industry or who applied for a H-1b visa but were rejected through the USCIS’ “lottery” process, this may be a viable short-to-medium term option.
Copyright, Farhad Sethna, Attorney, 2014
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.