Law Student Scholarships

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 31, 2000. All rights

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E-mail: barbarafox@princetoninfo.com

INS and the Talent Hunt

In the Information Revolution, the new Ellis Island may be a

law firm skilled in immigration law

If you think you could just start hiring foreigners

to fill the shortage of computer programmers, you will find it is

not that easy.

Immigration law has the reputation of being the federal government’s

second most complicated regulatory system, second only to the IRS.

Lawyers work with the companies that need workers and with the aliens

who want to pursue the American dream. They must deal with the

Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is swamped with

exponentially-increasing applications, hamstrung by lack of funding

support from Congress, and besieged by desperate pressure from

corporations.

But they keep at it. "Immigration is one of those rare aspects

of the law where you are really helping someone and affecting

someone’s

life," says Ryan Marrone of Hill Wallack. "When someone has

skills to benefit the employer, it is good to help the employer and

help the alien as well."

Fifteen years ago lawyers could fill out a small form and the visa

would come through, but now keeping up with all the regulations is

a full-time job. Many restrict themselves to specialties within

immigration

law: asylum and deportation cases, or family-based visas, or

work-related

visas. Here, we are talking about temporary work visas for high tech

professionals, particular some uses of the H-1B visas and the J-1

visa.

Getting technically qualified workers is difficult indeed, says Sidney

Rosenblatt, executive vice president and CFO of Universal Display

Corporation (UDL) on Phillips Boulevard (www.universaldisplay.com).

"The problems that people have in getting visas and work permits

could impact our technological base in the U.S.," says Rosenblatt.

"We are really concerned that if the U.S. immigration law becomes

an obstacle and we are not going to be able to bring talented

individuals

in, it will have an impact on our business and U.S. business as a

whole."

Take his company as an example. A public company, UDL has $8 million

in the bank and a burn rate of $5 million a year. It needs scientists

to implement its unusual technology — multicolor displays for

deluxe cell phones — and meet a demanding schedule that calls

for commercial prototypes by the end of this year and products in

the marketplace by the end of next year. Incubated at Princeton

University,

it now has 26 workers at Phillips Boulevard in Ewing, and among its

14 scientist it has organic chemists with experience in inventing

new chemicals for organic light emitting diodes, and electrical

engineers

with a background in thin film organic materials.

All the money in the world can’t hire a scientist if you can’t find

the scientist, and the field is very thin. "Everybody experienced

in this field, we know," says Rosenblatt. "We meet people

at conferences, and we read papers by people. We just don’t go out

and look for them." The chemistry people come from University

of Southern California, and the electrical engineers from the east

coast, England, Hong Kong, mainland China.

When you do find the right person, you need a work visa. UDL used

the services of Matthew Hirsch, a Philadelphia-based attorney who

is of counsel to Miller & Miller in New Brunswick, to get visas for

two scientists. "It took longer than we thought, four or five

months," says Rosenblatt, "but now they represent 14 percent

of our technical team.

Not all the overseas hiring is done by computer and electronic

companies.

PharmaNet, a large clinical research organization at 504 and 506

Carnegie

Center, needs several H-1B visas per year. Its attorney is A. Robert

Degen (SUNY Maritime College, Class of 1968, and American University

School of Law) from the Philadelphia office of Fox Rothschild O’Brien

& Frankel. PharmaNet hires managers, statisticians, and medical

scientists,

sometimes from Germany, more often from India.

High tech workers most often go for visas for temporary

work in a specialty occupation. These H-1B visas are good for up to

three years to start, and can be extended for a total of six years.

(Meanwhile you can be applying for permanent residency, a "green

card," but these take much longer, because the hiring company

has to go through a cumbersome process of proving to the U.S.

Department

of Labor that no other qualified U.S. citizen or green card holder

is available for that job.)

The going rate for attorney fees to prepare an H-1B visa application

is around $2,000, plus or minus $500 according to the location. The

applicant for an H-1B must have at least a bachelor’s degree or the

equivalent in the field of specialty, and the hiring company must

certify it will offer the prevailing wage for that geographical

location,

as verified by the state and federal departments of labor.

Until a couple of years ago, if you were qualified for an H-1B visa,

you could be pretty sure of getting one, and you could be from India,

China, France, or Sri Lanka, because H-1Bs have no national quotas.

(That turns out to be a double edge sword, however, since there are

quotas for permanent work-based green cards — about 10,000

applicants

per country per year. India and China, which account for a large

percentage

of H-1B visas, have huge backlogs of people trying to get permanent

visas.)

But restrictions on H-1B visas have been building up a head of steam.

In 1991 Congress began capping the number of H-1B visas that could

be issued in any one year. The original cap on H-1B visas was 65,000,

and at first that seemed more than enough but every year applications

increased. But in 1997 the INS ran out of H-1B visas on September

1, one month before the fiscal year ended. In 1999 these visas ran

out in June and the cap was raised to 115,000 and that still was not

enough. The cap was reached in 2000 in just six months.

"The demand far exceeds the supply," says Marta Gold, a

Rutgers

College and School of Law graduate who has a practice at Princeton

Professional Park on Ewing Street (609-924-8500, E-mail:

mgoldlaw2msn.com).

She does H-1B work for manufacturing firms in north Jersey and New

York. "The fiscal year starts October 1, and last year I got an

application in at the beginning of January and I was lucky to get

the application approved."

First-time filers who filed for H1-B visas after March 21 of this

year will have to wait until October to have their visa processed,

says Vinaya Saijawani, who has a home office in Princeton Junction

(609-588-5258, E-mail: saijawani@erols.com). An English major at

the University of Bombay, Class of 1971, she went to law school at

Rutgers Newark and emphasizes immigration, family law, and real

estate.

She does business visas for small computer companies as well as asylum

cases, mostly for immigrants from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The INS, being helpful, allows students to change their student visas

to tourist visas to remain legal, says Saijawani, and the INS is even

letting them accept signing bonuses in anticipation of getting an

H1-B temporary work visa. "So they have some money in their pocket

to tide them over until they go on the payroll."

If the visitor’s visa extension expires, he may have to go back home

and have the H-1B processed by the consulate, says Saijawani. "But

that is a risky venture." She thinks it is much easier to work

with the INS (which is under the Justice Department) than with a local

consulate (which is under the State Department), because consulates

are more intransigent, she says. "If you have a problem with the

INS, you can appeal it, and they can rectify your problem. But if

a consul says no, he doesn’t have to give you a reason why."

She had a client who was a jeweler, and when he answered a question

from the consul about diamonds, he gave what the consul considered

to be a wrong answer. "He got flummoxed, and he was denied,"

she says.

Carol Chandler, who frequently deals with consulates, takes a more

optimistic view. Chandler majored in political theory and

international

government at Radcliffe, went to law school at Rutgers, and handles

clients in New York and the Washington Metro area as well

(609-924-2720).

She does H-1B and other temporary visas, family and employment based

green cards, asylum and deportation litigation, and she travels to

such places as Moscow, Islamabad, and Manila to help clients with

consular processing.

"If you don’t mind working on the phone at 3 o’clock in the

morning,

you call the consular officers to ask what the problem is, and they

are generally quite cheerful and very well informed."

Chandler likes the challenge of taking clients who have been turned

down once or twice or those who have missed a deadline. "All is

not lost," says Chandler. "There are always options. Maybe

you can change them into a student visa or maybe they are an expert

in their field, or you can change them into some other kind of visa

to `park’ them for now, and then file to get in line for October

1."

One alternative suitable to highly trained professionals is the J-1

visa, used to a significant degree by Princeton Plasma Physics Lab

(PPPL). With 400 workers at the Forrestal Center, PPPL does magnetic

fusion research and plasma science and technology development funded

by the U.S. Department of Energy (www.pppl.gov). PPPL hires physicists

from such countries as Japan, Israel, Russia, or South Korea on J-1

visas. The typical waiting period for the visa to come through is

six to eight weeks, says Anthony DeMeo, a PPPL spokesman.

The J-1 visa is an exchange visitor program for a wide variety of

categories, such as foreign medical trainees, professors, graduate

students, camp counselors, and au pairs.

After the visa expires, many J-1 visa holders must return home and

stay for minimum of two years before applying to return. Though most

holders of J-1 visas who want to stay find their wishes stymied, but

there are exceptions on a case by case basis. "They don’t need

a lawyer to get into a J visa, they need to get a lawyer to get out

of one," says Chandler.

Another strategy is to bypass the temporary visa and

go straight for the permanent one, known as the green card. This is

usually Sarnoff’s choice, says Edwin R. Rubin of Rubin & Dornbaum

in Newark (973-623-4444). He has been handling the Sarnoff

Corporation’s

immigration law needs for 20 years. A science major at Penn State,

Class of 1965, he went to law school at Villanova and is past

president

of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Sarnoff is not

a particularly high user of temporary visas for foreign graduate

students,"

says Rubin. "I might do several permanent visas a year for

Sarnoff.

They generally hire from American universities, but occasionally they

need someone with a particular high tech skill."

Priority categories for employment-based green cards begin with

internationally

recognized "outstanding researchers," and for those with truly

extraordinary ability, the so-called "Einstein" visas. The

second level of permanent visas includes people of exceptional ability

or with advanced degrees. If the company hoping to hire permanently

with a green card can establish that the candidate’s presence would

be in the national interest, then the company can bypass the sometime

long and cumbersome process of a labor certification that shows that

there are no qualified and available American workers to fill the

job.

Rubin has obtained one or two "national interest" waivers

for Sarnoff but says they are hard to get now. The approval rate went

from more than 50 percent to a denial rate of close to 90 percent.

For the other categories of high tech workers who have only a

bachelor’s

degree or a minimum of two years experience in the occupation, a labor

certification is required.

To obtain this labor certification attorneys must work not only with

the INS but also with two labor departments, federal and state.

"Labor

certifications are an unwieldy and cumbersome process," says James

E. Mullaly, of Mullaly Diefenbach on South Main Street in Pennington

(609-737-1800). An alumnus of William & Mary, Class of ’74, and New

York University, he has an immigration practice involving both

employment-based

matters and court proceedings in Newark and Philadelphia, including

applications for asylum and related relief and criminal alien

deportation.

"New Jersey has about the longest backlog for any of the

states."

Most certifications involve running an ad in a daily newspaper.

"You

can spot an immigration ad a mile away," says Mullaly. The exact

salary is often stated, down to the dollars and cents paid-per-week,

and applicants are directed to send resumes to a state office. If

the hiring company turns down applications from eligible American

workers, the labor department may question those applicants as to

whether they were given only peremptory interviews

Stephen A. Traylor does a handful of H-1Bs per month, but his focus

now is helping families with businesses in Colombia set up United

States-based branches to qualify for special kinds of visas.

The son of law school professors, Traylor went to Hanover College

in Indiana, Class of 1968, and Seton Hall Law School. He served in

the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, lived in Argentina in turbulent times

with his former wife, and in the 1980s was involved with Princeton’s

Sanctuary movement, protecting those from Guatemala and El Salvador

from deportation. He taught and did administrative work at Middlesex

County College before opening a Princeton office, Traylor & Traylor,

now at 20 Nassau Street (609-924-8338).

Owners of businesses that already have a foothold in the United

States,

perhaps an import/export firm, can get an E visa and try to build

up the business to continue to qualify for this "treaty

trader/treaty

investor" visa. Holders of these visas cannot qualify for a green

card. Half of them come from Japan and 25 percent from England, says

Traylor. "This fits the situation of those who don’t like it here

and who dream about going back. It also fits the situation of those

who are well off."

Some families can take advantage of the L visas allocated for

inter-company

transfers and eventually qualify for a green card. "You get one

year to get your company going," says Traylor. "If you can

show the INS the company is up and running, you can extend for a total

of six years. If the business continues to expand, you can apply for

a green card based on being an international business person, but

you must show you are doing a substantial amount of commerce."

The INS could use twice as many people, says Traylor. The short

staffing

shows up most dramatically in New Jersey, which has some of the

biggest

backlogs and longest lines. Some tasks clients must do themselves

— apply for permission to leave the country for reasons of

business

or death in the family, for instance. But Traylor says that if clients

need to do any business with the Newark district office, they have

to get in line at 4:30 in the morning and there is no guarantee they

will get a successful answer.

Because Congress is always toying with the system, immigration law

is a moving target; three or four changes are published in the Federal

Register every month. "Nothing changes more often than immigration

law," says Traylor. "I tell people, if you don’t have anything

going for you now, wait till next year, it will be different.

"Because immigration law is constantly changing and quotas are

also changing, this work draws on your legal experience, but there

is also a lot of research and strategy involved," says Ryan

Marrone

of Hill Wallack at the Carnegie Center (609-924-0808,

www.hillwallack.com).

An alumnus of Seton Hill, Class of 1994, and law school at Widener,

he and Mark M. Roselli have founded the firm’s immigration law

practice

to do H-1B and employment-based permanent residency petitions, along

with family-sponsored permanent residency petitions.

One change that almost everyone involved in immigration hopes will

take place: that Congress will pass a law increasing the number of

visas available. "At present Congress continues to struggle with

the competing interests of protecting domestic employment while at

the same time making the labor resources available to fuel the economy

in the 21st century. Before Congress is a bill designed to increase

the availability of visas for professional workers with highly

specialized

skills," says Hirsch, the UDL attorney, referring to the Lofgren

bill, HR 3983. An alumnus of Penn State, Class of 1981, he teaches

immigration law at his alma mater, Widener University’s law school.

Rubin, the past chairman of the lawyers’ association, also supports

the Lofgren bill (HR 3983) and opposes the Lamar Smith bill (HR 4227),

which he terms a "smokescreen that fits in with Smith’s

restrictionist

philosophy."

Says Rubin: "Companies spend millions of dollars a year to hire

and train any qualified American and still can’t fill their

requirement.

There is a 50 percent gap between computer science graduates and

computer

science job openings over the next several years."

"The White House is interested in helping," says Hirsch,

"and

also the AFL-CIO, in a real change of attitude, has noted there is

a real shortage of workers and has pulled back from its usual

resistance

to any bill that creates opportunities for foreign workers." Even

Alan Greenspan has testified that the shortage of domestic labor could

have a deleterious effect on the growth of the economy.

What will happen if restrictions are not relaxed? Expect U.S.-based

companies to expand to Canada and would-be immigrants to settle in

Canada. When these immigrants obtain Canadian citizenship, they can

— under the NAFTA agreement — obtain a letter from a

prospective

U.S. employer, do their visa work at the border, and at last come

to work at least temporarily in the United States.

— Barbara Fox

Top Of Page
Law Student Scholarships

The County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey

Foundation,

a non-profit, is accepting applications for the following

scholarships.

The Oscar W. Rittenhouse Memorial Scholarship is a one-year, $2,500

grant open to any New Jersey resident who has been admitted to an

accredited law school and has a special interest in law enforcement.

The Andrew K. Ruotolo Jr. Memorial Scholarship, also $2,500 paid

annually,

is open to former award recipients and to state residents who have

been accepted by an accredited law school or graduate school.

The Harris Y. Cotton Scholarship is also a one-year, $2,500 award

paid to residents who have been accepted to law school and exhibit

an interest in law enforcement with an emphasis on domestic violence

or hate crimes prosecution. Applications must be in by Thursday, June

15. Call 609-984-0051.


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