Dear Senator Durbin,
My name is Haidong Ji. I am a naturalized US citizen, residing in (township omitted here), Illinois. I became a US citizen on July 5th, 2008, in time for the 2008 general election, where I cast my ballots for Democratic, Republican, and Green Party candidates, which was nice. With the mid-term election coming up, I am collecting info regarding candidates and their positions to make an informed decision when I vote.
One thing that is of particular importance to me is the US-China relationship. Specifically, I’d like to see us making changes with regards to visa and entry permits to Chinese citizens with valid H-1B (and H-4 for spouse and dependents), J-1 (and J2 for spouse and dependents), and F1 (and F2 for spouse and dependents) visas.
Here is what I know of the current policy. Up until middle of July, 2010, for a valid H-1B visa holder with Chinese citizenship, from the day that H-1B/H-4 status is granted, that person is allowed 2 entries to the US for the first 3 months. If said Chinese person leaves the US for whatever reason more than 2 times within those first 3 months or after the first 3 months, the individual will have to apply for permission to enter the US, even if the H-1B/H-4 is still valid for a total duration of 3 years. I’ve learned recently that the 3-month 2 entries arrangement has been expanded to 12-month multiple entries. In my opinion that is not enough.
F1 and F2 visa holders does not fare any better. During university summer and winter breaks, a valid F1/F2 Chinese student will have to apply for permission to enter the US if s/he visits home and family.
I have experienced all of the above. I came to the US in 1995 on F1 visa, and didn’t go back to China to visit my family during graduate school years. The visa and reentry restriction was a significant factor. After school, I started working on H-1B status, got engaged, and visited my in-laws in Sweden. When it was time to come back to the US, I went to the American Embassy in Stockholm to apply for entry permit. I don’t recall all the details now, but suffice it to say that I couldn’t get it in time, and I did remember the rude and brash attitude displayed by the Embassy staff. Therefore I had to adjust my flight and applied for extension to stay in Sweden longer.
Then my son was born and grandma in Sweden was dying of cancer. My wife flew back with a less than 3-month old to say goodbye and for grandma to see the grandchild. I didn’t go along, due to the fear of being rejected of an entry permit, even when I have a perfectly valid visa!
Every single year we have ten of thousands of Chinese students studying in the US on F-1 or J-1, and also a lot of Chinese nationals working in high tech and R&D on H-1B. We also see a lot of Americans working and studying in China. This is all fantastic, if you ask me. However, the entry restrictions on these Chinese nationals means long period of not seeing family and friends, 8 years, in my case. Combining that with the necessary adjustment of language, culture, and social norm, the entry restrictions imposes a real hardship on them, as my personal experience attests.
We are a country of immigrants. And I firmly believe our diversity is the greatest strength of America. To let some bureaucratic process impose undue hardship on people with perfect legal status, I think we can do better than that. Not to mention that China is such an important partner to us that we should do everything within reason to encourage the travel, study, business, and non-governmental exchanges between our two people.
So I’d really appreciate it if you could inquire this matter with relevant governmental agencies, and see if they can remove/lessen the entry restrictions on Chinese citizens with F-1, F-2, H-1B, H-4, J-1, and J-2 visas.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for your email. I appreciate hearing from you.
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I appreciate your comments. Thank you again for contacting me.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator
November 3, 2010
Dear Mr. Ji:
Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. I appreciate hearing from you.
The H-1B visa program provides for the temporary admission of foreign professional workers, including highly skilled technology workers, to the United States. The program is extremely popular with businesses in the technology industry. The L-1 visa program permits companies to transfer existing foreign employees to U.S. offices for a period of up to seven years.
In considering visa programs, we must promote measures that cultivate a strong, well-educated American workforce and enhance the ability of the United States to compete in the global economy. For many years, the United States has both nurtured a highly skilled domestic workforce and attracted the best talent from countries around the world. Countless immigrants have made significant contributions to America’s scientific, literary, artistic, cultural, and economic resources. That is why I have supported reasonable levels of legal permanent employment-based and family-based immigration.
The H-1B visa program provides American employers with thousands of well-educated temporary workers. We must ensure that the H-1B visa program is not adversely affecting the ability of Americans to find work.
On April 23rd, I introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act (S. 887), which would add protections for qualified American workers to the H-1B and L-1 visa programs while also permitting needed foreign workers to be employed in the United States.
The bill would require that an employer make a good faith effort to recruit American workers before giving jobs to visa holders. Before an employer could submit an H-1B visa application, the employer would be required to advertise the job for 30 days on the Department of Labor (DOL) website. The bill also would give the DOL the ability to conduct random audits to ensure that any company that uses the H-1B program and any company with 100 or more workers, with 15 percent or more of these workers with H-1B visas, do not abuse the program.
To ensure that companies are not undercutting American workers by paying substandard wages to H-1B and L-1 workers, the proposed legislation would require employers to pay foreign employees the prevailing U.S. wage. The bill also would prohibit companies that employ more than 50 people from hiring or outsourcing additional H-1B employees if more than 50 percent of existing employees are H-1B visa holders.
My legislation would protect American workers from being placed at a competitive disadvantage in the job market by H-1B and L-1 visa workers. Major portions of the bill were included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007. Unfortunately, that legislation was not passed by the Senate.
I also have helped craft a proposal that was incorporated into the competitiveness bill that became law to provide grants to domestic students who pursue a degree in science, mathematics, engineering, or a foreign language.
In the context of comprehensive reform, I am open to a discussion about the size of the visa program if the program is reformed to protect American workers and prevent abuses by employers.
Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator