H-1B Visa Holders Stuck In Limbo
By Andy Semotiuk | March 30, 2017
In this video, Pace Immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk talks about the changes to the H-1B visa in the United States as it relates to doctors and IT professionals. Andy points out that one solution for people who are stuck in H-1B limbo: come to Canada. Watch the video or read the transcript below for more.
SB: Welcome back to Pace Immigration, paceimmigration.com, talking with immigration lawyer, Andy Semotiuk. Andy, interesting article in the New York Times talking about doctors who are having a problem. They’re in the United States on what they call… Some of them, of course, doctors born in the United States aren’t. But, foreign doctors that are on H-1B visas which are basically temporary work permits, are having problems getting those H-1B visas renewed. They feel like they’re in limbo, what’s the story?
AS: Okay, that’s a difficult problem for those guys, and not only doctors but for IT professionals as well, that article referred to them as well. But let’s talk about doctors first.
AS: So they’re there probably doing the residencies or whatever and probably have completed that, and they’re on route to a green card. However, there’s this line-up and they have to wait for their turn according to this thing called the visa bulletin and their priority date. And depending what country they’re from, the priority date can be like nine years, 10, 11 years, or whatever. And if their priority date is that long, that means they have to sit in H-1B status, and renew their H-1B status, or at least get into H-1B status. And they’ve run up against the problem of Donald Trump, President Trump, and his attack on the H-1B visa, particularly this issue of premium processing, which he’s removed.
So in other words, what usually took two weeks to get an approval on this H-1B visa, is now gonna take nine months or 11 months to get approval. And so, there are doctors in that article, in particular, you mentioned there was a doctor complaining that she’s been waiting eight months since she doesn’t have her H-1B visa.
SB: Right. Just to take it back a step. From the government’s point of view, it’s one of these things, killing a fly with a sledgehammer or something like that, from the government’s point of view, too many doctors were jumping the queue to the front of the line to get their H-1B visa, because companies were paying, I think it was about $1,200 to get them to the front of that line. By removing that fee, now everyone’s the same, which means now you could be waiting a year for a doctor to get their visa.
AS: Correct. And this was painful, particularly not in the urban centers, but in the rural centers who are short on doctors and need these doctors to help their populations.
SB: Right. It was fascinating to read actually. It said something like 25% of the doctors practicing in the United States are either foreign born or came from overseas and were trained in the United States, especially in the rural areas. So those people that are in that situation, what’s the solution?
AS: Well, apart from waiting in this line to get your H-1B visa and then in H-1B status for almost an eternity until you get your green card, a possibility would be come to Canada. You can apply to Canada as a doctor. Now, the idea there is that we have this program called Expressed Entry Federal Skilled Worker Program. The basics are, you have a high education, your age is a factor, if you’re young it helps. Your experience. Now, in this case, we need at least one year’s work experience as a doctor, which I think most of these people have. And then you have to have credentials, you have to be able to speak English or French.
So you’d have to go through a test. You’d have to have your credentials evaluated by the Medical Council of Canada as part of this process. But the idea is that these doctors could apply for permanent residence, not temporary work permit, but permanent residence in Canada. And the beauty of the program is, if you qualify, once you put up your profile, they say that within six months, by and large, people who apply into that program will get permanent residence. So the irony is that it might be possible for someone who is waiting in line to get an H-1B visa in the United States, a work visa, could in that same period of time, apply in Canada and get permanent residence status.
SB: Like the person we were referring to, a couple of people quoted in the article have been waiting upwards of nine months to a year, in that nine months to a year they could’ve achieved permanent residency in Canada and been working as doctors here.
AS: Correct. Assuming they had worked for a year probably in residency or something like that.
SB: And pass of course the credentials in Canada.
SB: I have to figure someone who’s got their training at the Mayo Clinic or something like that, is probably going to pass exams in Canada.
AS: I think, by and large, medical credentials will be recognized in Canada. So if they’ve done the two… There’s these two national exams, for example, those would be recognized in Canada.
SB: So that’s one way to solve the problem for the medical people, and the IT people same thing?
AS: Something a little different for IT people. If you’re working for Cisco, Apple, Microsoft, or any of these huge organizations that have both branches in the United States and in Canada, that organization could send you up as an inter-corporate transferee to work in Canada, and you could work on a work permit for one year very quickly. It could be done in a matter of a couple of weeks. You could be in Canada working on a work permit.
In the meantime, your green card application could be pending in the United States while you do these things, which is, you come to Canada as an inter-corporate worker for a year, and then apply inside Canada under the Canadian experience class for permanent resident status, again under this express entry system. And, presumably, because you’ll have a Master’s degree or whatever, you would qualify and get your permanent residence in Canada. So, in essence, a possible plan could be that you’re working in the United States. You want to get your green card but it’s like twelve years away because you’re on this priority date issue, with the Visa bulletin holding you back.
Until such time as you qualify because you’re from a country like India or China or wherever. Where there’s many years of waiting before you get in line to be able to get your green card. So while you’re waiting, in theory you could come to Canada, work for a year, then qualify under the express entry to get permanent residence status, which would take in theory six months. So let’s say within a year and six months, a year and a half. You would have permanent residence in Canada. And it’s conceivable, under the new rules of Canadian citizenship, where if you’re permanently… If you’re physically present in Canada, three out of four years, that you could even get Canadian citizenship and still be waiting in line for your green card in the United States and ultimately return to the United States, to become a permanent resident, in the green card category.
SB: It’s a very roundabout way, to get and wait for your green card. But it is definitely a… It’s fascinating actually that that’s what it would take.
AS: Put it this way, why not get yourself this security of permanent residence, at least in Canada, while you’re waiting. Why sit in a lineup, and wait not knowing for sure whether you’re going anywhere or not. Who wants to wait nine, ten years to get…
SB: Not to mention, with all of the changes going on, if they ever lowered the boom, on the H-1B Visa, years that you are waiting…
AS: Yeah. That could be a real problem.
SB: You know, you’re not holding your spot in line unless you have that H-1B Visa. If that thing disappears it’s game over.
AS: Correct. It’s a really dicey situation at the moment, given the political immigration landscape in the United States.
SB: Right. And I mean Canada similarly, I remember we went through this with the foreign worker program. Where people didn’t know if they were gonna get visas. So when you’re waiting on government fiat to decide which way your life is gonna go, it can be pretty dicey.
AS: But what we’ve discussed brings promise to some at least, you know.
SB: Yes. Absolutely.
AS: I think it’s worth a try. If anybody’s interested.
SB: There’s always options. Andy’s number one when it comes to the solutions. Give him a call, look him up at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re on H-1B status and you need answers, he’s the man to do it. Talk to you next time. Bye-bye.