The State Department has made numerous changes to its website, and these changes can be a great help to intending visitors, students and workers from other countries.
One example is the “Visa Wizard”. The Visa Wizard is a guide to help
foreign-born persons understand which visa category might be right for them. Although the Visa Wizard does not currently list every type of visa, it does list most of the common-used visas.
Let’s take the Visa Wizard on a test drive, shall we?
First, the Visa Wizard asks you which country issued your passport. I enter “India”.
The next question asks you to list the primary purpose of your travel. There is a drop-down menu with the following five choices: (1) Tourism or Visit; (2) Business or Employment; (3) Study or Exchange; (4) Traveling Through the U.S. to Another Country; and (5) Immigrate. I choose “Business or Employment”.
As soon as I do, another question with six possible answers appears: “What will you be doing in the U.S.?” I check the box stating that “I am coming for temporary employment in the U.S.”
Immediately, the next question pops up: “What kind of work?” I check “Working for a U.S. employer”.
Then I am asked to select the type of employment that I plan to engage in. I check “A professional with specialized knowledge or skills planning to work in a specialty occupation.”
At last the cross-examination is over, and my only option is to click a blue box entitled “Find a Visa”.
I click the blue box, and voila!, I receive the following message:
“Some university educated and skilled professionals in specialized fields may qualify for a Temporary Employment Visa (H-1B) to travel to the U.S. to work in a specialty occupation.
Examples of travel on this visa
- Skilled labor in fields such as technology and business
- Fashion model who has national or international acclaim”
Now, I have a few choices, the most obvious being to click the multi-colored box below which says “Learn More: H-1B”. Of course, I can also click any of the links under “Related Visa Categories” which are “Visas for Temporary Employment in the U.S.” followed by “L”, “O”, “P” and “Q”. The other option is to click “Employment Based Immigrant Visas”. But since I am feeling adventurous, I click on the box to the far right of the page entitled “See All Visa Categories”.
TMI! I hurriedly hit the back button, but it takes back to the very beginning of the Visa Wizard. Rats!
So, I go through the whole exercise a second time, and this time I click on “Learn More: H-1B”. This brings me to the “Temporary Worker Visas” page which briefly discusses H-1B, L, O, P and Q visas. Information about each type of visa is limited. There is a link to the Department of Labor (DOL) website and to the USCIS website. Most of the information, understandably, focuses on the State Department’s requirements for applying for a visa abroad.
And herein lies the problem. While I like the idea behind the Visa Wizard, it is of limited value. Just as the Wizard of Oz gave the Scarecrow a diploma when what he needed was a brain, the Visa Wizard gives foreign-born professionals only a small slice of the pie.
To get an H-1B visa, an employer must first obtain the approval of a Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the DOL. The Visa Wizard simply provides a link to the DOL website. After all, such things as prevailing wage determinations, posting requirements and the like are not DOS issues. After the LCA is approved, the employer must file an H-1B petition with the USCIS. And all the complications associated with H-1B petitions (credentials evaluations, cap-exemptions, portability, etc.) are knots which must be unraveled by the USCIS, and hence, the Visa Wizard links to the USCIS website. It may be understandable why this is done, but it does not provide readers with a complete picture of the H-1B visa process.
Maybe one day far, far away in the Emerald City, the DOL, the USCIS and the DOS will all collaborate on an Immigration Wizard website.
Only then will foreign-born professionals be able to follow the Yellow Brick Road.