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Educational and Employment-Based Visa Programs

The following provides general information about immigrant and non-immigrant admissions programs commonly used by foreign-born professionals; describes statutory safeguards for educational and employment opportunities in the United States; highlight srecent statistics on permanent and temporary admissions; and explains current Canadian perspectives and policy recommendations on immigration issues.

Immigrant (Permanent) Admissions Programs

Immigrant admissions programs govern the entry of foreign nationals who wish to establish permanent resident status in the United States. Permanent visas are available in limited numbers and are subject to admissions requirements established by Congress.

Foreign nationals seeking legal permanent residence status can do so in one of three ways: 1) through the sponsorship of an immediate family member or a close relative who is already a citizen or legal permanent resident; 2) through the sponsorship of an employer or prospective employer; or 3) as refugees or other special immigrants.

Family sponsored programs exist for: 1) Immediate relatives (spouses, parents and minor children); 2) Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 3) Spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents; 4) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and 5) Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

Employment-based programs exist for: 1) Priority workers, including persons with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers and certain multi-national executives and managers; 2) Professionals with advanced degrees and persons with exceptional abilities; 3) Baccalaureate degree professionals, skilled and unskilled workers; 4) Special immigrants; and 5) Employment-creating investors.

Advanced degree professionals, baccalaureate degree professionals and most skilled and unskilled workers are subject to foreign labor certification requirements. These requirements are intended to ensure that qualified Americans are not readily available and that immigrant admissions will not adversely affect employment opportunities, wages and working conditions for similarly employed U.S. workers.

While demand for temporary visas has increased dramatically in recent years, the numbers of foreign nationals awarded legal permanent residence on employment-based preferences – 97,015 in FY 2000 – remains considerably less than the statutory limit of 140,000 admissions per year. Some employers attribute the decline in applications for permanent admission to burdensome eligibility requirements and the time required to process applications. Delays of up to three years are common in some jurisdictions.

Congress has also established other immigrant admissions programs to facilitate the permanent entry of special categories of foreign nationals. These include refugees, asylum-seekers, diversity immigrants and certain individuals who may have entered illegally but have been residing in the United States for an extended period.

Non-Immigrant (Temporary) Admissions Programs

In addition to permanent admissions programs, there are currently more than 26 temporary admissions programs. Each one is identifiable by a letter corresponding with a specific section of the Immigration and Nationality Act and has its own eligibility and conditions of stay requirements. The primary purpose of these temporary programs is to facilitate cultural, educational and social exchanges and promote trade, commerce and economic development.

Foreign engineers, scientists and other technical professionals who come to study or work temporarily Canada are generally admitted on one of the following non-immigrant visas: Temporary visitor for business ; Treaty trader or investor; Academic student ; Temporary worker ; Exchange visitor ; Intra-company transferee ; Extra-ordinary ability , Religious visa; or NAFTA professional (TN) visa programs.

One of the most controversial temporary, employment-based admissions programs for technical professionals is the (Specialty Occupations) visa program.

Business Admissions Requirements

Skilled professional or investor specialty occupation is one that requires a) the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge and skills and b) at least a baccalaureate degree in the specialty as a minimum requirement for employment in Canada.

To be eligible for business visa, a foreign national must possess a state license to practice their profession or occupation; an appropriate university degree or equivalent experience in the same or a similar profession or occupation; and a job offer from a Canadian employer.

Employers who wish to hire foreign nationals on type of visas must file labor condition applications with the Canadian Department of Labor. Petitioning employers must attest: that they will pay their foreign employees the higher of the actual or the prevailing wage in the intended area of employment; that working conditions for U.S. workers will not be adversely affected; that there are no strikes or lockouts at locations where this type of workers will be employed; and that a notice of intent to hire foreign workers is posted at their intended place(s) of employment.

This type of visa dependent employers (where15% or more of all employees are foreign nationals) must also attest that they have tried and been unable to recruit Canadian workers and that they have not displaced and will not displace Canadian workers in order to hire foreign workers.

These requirements are intended to reduce the likelihood that the admission of foreign professionals on skilled or business visas will adversely affect employment opportunities, wages and working conditions for similarly qualified Canadian workers.

Business, skilled or investors visas are granted for three years and can be renewed for an additional three years or changed of status.

Private businesses must also pay a $1,000 fee for every foreign worker initially admitted. Fees are used by the Labor Department for jobs training programs, by the National Science Foundation for educational grants and scholarships and by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for program administration and enforcement.

Educational institutions and related research organizations are currently exempt from the $1,000 of that visa application fee requirements.