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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Bloggings: October 25, 2007

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.

October 23, 2007

AND NOW FOR THE OTHER BIG NEWS - H-1B FILING FEE INCREASED TO $3000 IN SENATE BILL

It's baaack...

The Senate passed by a voice vote (that means it was unanimous) a measure to double the $1500 H-1B tariff to $3000. Was an increase in the H-1B cap included as part of the deal? What do you think? Here's the language of SA 3396, introduced by not-pro-business Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Bernie Sanders, the socialist (he really is - that's not an insult) Vermont Senator.

Expect a fight on this when the bill gets to the House. Any massive tax increase associated with H-1Bs should only be accompanied by abolishing the anti-competitive H-1B cap all together.

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NURSE IMMIGRATION MEASURE INCLUDED IN SENATE BUDGET BILL

A nurse immigration relief amendment was included by unanimous consent in a voice vote this evening. Nursing immigration ground to a halt earlier this year because of retrogression in the EB-3 green card category, the depletion of a 2005 allotment of 50,000 green cards for nurses and the lack of a non-immigrant visa category for nurses. The Senate added the measure as an amendment to H.R. 3043, the HHS-Labor budget bill. Amendment 3404, Senator Charles Schumer's Amendment, was passed as amended by Amendment 3449, introduced by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin. I am awaiting the final text of 3449, but I have what I believe is the final language. The key provisions are as follows:

  • 61,000 immigrant visas for Schedule A occupations (nurses and physical therapists) and their immediate family members; the numbers are drawn from unused green cards from prior years
  • A $1500 additional fee for each of these green cards to be paid as a condition of approval of the adjustment application by USCIS or issuance of the visa by the State Department; waiver for certain facilities in disaster areas or HHS-designated halth professional shortage areas.
  • Brain drain provision one: nurses, physicians and other health care workers must attest that they do not owe their native country any financial obligation tied to their health care worker education (an exception is made if the obligation was incurred by coercion or in the case of undue hardship); this provision shall take effect 180 days after passage of the bill
  • A grant program is created to allow US nursing schools to increase the number of nursing faculty and students
  • Brain drain provision two: Permanent resident health care workers (including doctors and nurses) will get credit toward naturalization and not be deemed to have abandoned permanent residency during time spent working in the following countries (a list will be published by DOS within six months (and DHS must publish rules within six months) of enactment of the legislation and updated annually):
    • countries eligible for International Development Association assistance or
    • which are classified as "lower middle income countries" in the World Development Report for Reconstruction and Development published by the Bank for Reconstruction and Development or
    • a country determined jointly by DHS and DOS to be qualified due to special circumstances such as natural disasters or public health emergencies

In case people miss it, the brain drain provisions cover doctors as well as other health care workers.

Note that the bill still has some key hurdles including making it out of a House-Senate conference committee and past a presidential veto. But passage on the Senate floor was considered the biggest obstacle.

It's tough to predict how long 61,000 will last, but if the 50,000's use is an indicator, we'll be at this again in about 18 months or so.

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TANCREDO CALLS FOR ARREST OF PARTICIPANTS OF CONGRESSIONAL STAFF BRIEFING

Scary stuff. This guy has really become the Joe McCarthy of the 21st century.

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CONFIRMED: NURSING VISA BILL TO BE VOTED ON BEFORE DAY'S END

Senator Reid announced this from the Senate floor. I'll summarize the measure this evening, but it basically allocates 61,000 green cards for nurses, requires a fee of $1500 be paid to a fund for additional educational opportunities for those pursuing nursing degrees in the US and encourages nurses from developing countries with nursing shortages to return home for several years in exchange for a shorter naturalization residency period. More to follow later...

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NURSING IMMIGRATION AMENDMENT COULD COME UP IN THE NEXT HOUR

I have learned that SA 3404 will get a vote this afternoon, possibly in the next hour. Nurses do not have access to a non-immigrant visa and the EB backlog means they must wait five years or more to enter the country. We have a severe nursing shortage in the US and recent studies link patient mortality rates to this shortage. The bill will provide temporary relief by making 61,000 green cards available to RNs. The bill number is SA3404 and is being offered as an amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. If you can call your Senator NOW, you might be able to make a difference in the bill passing. The phone numbers for each Senator are here.

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FIRES ILLUSTRATE NEED FOR PLANNING BY IMMIGRANTS

Two years ago, I was counseling a number of immigrants on how to maintain their legal status in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Jobs were lost, documents destroyed, government offices closed and people were relocated to metro areas far from home. USCIS, the State Department and the Department of Labor did a good job helping people affected, but the lesson many took away from the storms was that it is important to do advance planning for disasters and emergencies and be prepared to also act quickly.

I was reminded of this by a quote I saw in this morning's New York Times in reference to the Southern California fires:

“I saw a live video of our apartment complex burning,” said Raj Panandian, a 26-year-old software engineer. He and several of his neighbors left the complex at 4 a.m. after receiving a telephone call from San Diego County Fire Department officials.

“I had just settled down there six months ago,” said Mr. Panandian, an Indian citizen. “I had bought furniture, and everything. The only thing I managed to save was my passport and my H-1 work visa. I think everything else is gone.”

One simple action you can take now is to make sure you have a copy of all of your key immigration documents accessible at a remote location in case of a disaster. Consider scanning your documents and storing them electronically off site as well. Not only will you need documents like your I-94 and passport to prove your legal status, but you'll want copies of filings with government agencies in case the government office with your file is closed temporarily or destroyed.

 

Also, following Mr. Panandian's lead is helpful. Have your original documents in a place you can quickly find them and be sure you take them with you when you evacuate.

If you are displaced and forced to move, remember to alert USCIS to your address change. You can download Form AR-11 at www.uscis.gov.

If there is a major disaster in your area, you should check in, if possible, with your immigration lawyer or if you are a student, your foreign student adviser. The American Immigration Lawyers Association and NAFSA, the organization for foreign student advisers, will often have the latest and most detailed information on special procedures and announcements relating to the disaster.

In a large disaster, USCIS may relax visa rules so people who lose their jobs, are no longer enrolled in school, etc. are not facing severe immigration violations. But you should not count on this, particularly if an emergency only affects you or a disaster is small, and you may want to plan on quickly filing for a change to visitor status while you sort things out. I-539 visitor status petitions can be submitted online. You are technically required to file for a change to visitor status while you remain in valid status in another category, but there is a provision in the regulations allowing for late filings when there are extraordinary circumstances. Be sure to present a copy of a police or fire report or a FEMA or insurance adjuster document proving you were affected by the disaster or emergency.

Be sure to file for replacement documents quickly if an original document was lost. The I-90 form to replace a green card can be filed online. You can also download Form I-102 to replace an I-94 at the USCIS web site.

I'm sure readers have other tips to share and I encourage you to mention them in the comments.

 

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October 22, 2007

ALERT - DREAM ACT TO RECEIVE A VOTE ON WEDNESDAY!

Senator Reid, as promised, is bringing the DREAM Act up for a vote. He'll do it on Wednesday and the antis are already going crazy lighting up the switchboard in Washington. We cannot assume common sense and decency will prevail. Get on the phone in the next 12 to 18 hours and call your Senator and urge them to vote for the DREAM.

AILA provided this action alert this afternoon:

If the DREAM Act Passes the Senate...

The DREAM Act positively conveys the benefits and contributions of immigrants to America. Its passage would send a clear message across the country that immigration is a valued American tradition that is badly in need of a makeover. Senate support of the DREAM Act promotes hardworking immigrant students while expressing a commitment to repairing our broken system.

If the DREAM Act Fails to Pass the Senate...

Conversely, if the DREAM Act does not garner the sixty votes it needs to pass the Senate, a different message will resonate throughout the country. This message tells immigrant kids that their hard work in school - the studying and staying out of trouble

- mean nothing to American law makers. This message tells teenagers who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives that this is not their home and that the American Dream belongs only to their classmates, but not to them.

The DREAM Act will come to a vote in the Senate on Wednesday. What message will your senators be sending? Call them today and ask for their support!


Your Senator's contact details can be found here

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USCIS ADVISES ON APPLICANTS AFFECTED BY THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRES

Welcome flexibility from USCIS.

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IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: BIANCA JAGGER - HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST

I caught the story over Bianca Jagger's eviction from her rent-controlled New York apartment due to her holding visitor visa status in the US. I'm not sure I have a problem with New York only offering the benefit of rent control to people who are full time residents of the city (though, to be honest, I have not studied the issue closely).

But Jagger has done important human rights and environmental work and deserves a mention for that.

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FAUX OUTRAGE OF THE DAY: CHINESE STEEL TO BE USED IN BORDER FENCE

This story cracks me up. How better to waste taxpayer money - by buying US steel or Chinese steel? I guess since the fence is really only a symbol anyway and won't solve our immigration problems and given that the lack of a functioning guest worker program in the US means the fence works as a trade barrier, we might as well go whole hog and be completely protectionist.  Let's paint the fence red, white and blue while we're at it (using only American-made paint, of course).

Aren't you glad I interrupted the Ellen dog story/Britney custody fight for this important news?

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DREAM ACT - THE FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN

I love Facebook and am psyched that it is being used to promote important causes like the DREAM Act. If you're a college student and want to help out in getting Congress to support DREAM, follow the link below:

http://swarthmore.facebook.com/event.php?eid=22280285005

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October 21, 2007

WELCOME TO THEIR WORLD

NY Times reporter Julia Preston, one of the best immigration reporters in the country, covers the increasing delays in reentry of US citizens at land ports of entry in Mexico. Most Americans have no idea what immigrants encounter everyday when dealing with US immigration authorities and if there is any good news here, it is that awareness of the problem will increase.

Remember the Singapore immigration authority's slogan I mentioned this week - 3S - Security, Speed, Service. We too need a system that delivers all three of these.

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HOW TO MAKE THE WORLD LIKE US

Americans used to enjoy warm receptions wherever they went in the world. Those days are long gone and without getting in to a discussion of foreign policy, some recent studies have shown that people's views are also shaped by how well they know the country. Those who visit the US are 42% more likely to have a favorable view of the country. And public support around the world IS important to American foreign policy.

So the fortress mentality at US consulates and ports of entry can be viewed as serving our enemy's interests. While we need to have a secure immigration system, we need to be smart about it and not have policies that are so restrictive that people don't even bother trying to come to visit the US.

I received the following email this week from an organization trying to promote tourism to the US - the Discover America Partnership. Their work is important if we're to get the economic and foreign policy benefits associated with foreign tourism:

October 16, 2007

 

  When It Comes to Travel, the Deck Is Stacked Against America

 

Almost every developed nation, other than the United States, operates a nationally coordinated travel promotion program - and it shows. International travel to most world destinations is increasing, but overseas travel to the United States has declined 17 percent since 9/11.

Most of these same nations charge U.S. visitors entry or exit fees. The United States charges no such fees. In effect, U.S. travelers are funding the travel promotion campaigns of foreign governments. When it comes to competing for international travelers, America isn't even in the game.


America Needs to Get in the Game!

 

The Solution? The Travel Promotion Act of 2007 (S.1661 / H.R. 3232) would establish a nationally coordinated travel promotion campaign paid for by a $10 fee on overseas travelers from visa waiver countries and matching funds provided by the U.S. travel industry. A study by Oxford Economics shows that travel promotion would yield at least:

  • 1.6 million new visitors per year
  • $8 billion per year in new visitor spending
  • $850 million per year in new federal tax revenue  

For more information on the importance of overseas travel to the United States, visit www.poweroftravel.org/pdf/DAP_blueprint.pdf

 

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KEEP THEM HERE

Reader "legal-forever-waiting-forever" posted this piece from the conservative newspaper the New York Sun on how protectionist immigration policies keeping out foreign scientists and technology professional are hurting America.

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JINDAL BECOMES HIGHEST ELECTED INDIAN-AMERICAN

Bobby Jindal, the American-born child of Indian immigrants, has easily won the Louisiana Governor race. Jindal is a conservative Republican known for his enthusiastic support of the war in Iraq and his opposition to abortion. On immigration issues, he has generally voted to support tough immigration enforcement legislation. He has had the opportunity to vote a few times on business immigration bills and his votes on those issues were pro-immigration. He also apparently has changed his view on the REAL ID drivers license bill having voted for it initially and then voting later to fund it. A number of Republicans have recently pulled their support for the initiative that would require state drivers license to meet certain requirements that would effectively bar unlawfully present immigrants from obtaining a ilcense.

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October 20, 2007

TANCREDO KEEPS RIDING THE ANTI TRAIN

Back in the 50s, Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) kept banging the anti-communist drum accusing anyone and everyone of being a red. Today, the same tactics are used by the anti-immigration crowd. McCarthy and company overreached in the 50s and their reputation is permanently stained. The same fate awaits the anti-immigrants making news today.

Tancredo has made news twice this week for ridiculous proposals that only show him to be the extremist he is. A first proposal would require all family immigration applicants to submit to DNA testing to qualify for a green card. A second proposal would legislatively overturn Judge Breyer's decision to temporarily enjoin DHS from implementing the no match rule. The judge is holding up the rule pending a demonstration that US citizens are sufficiently protected from being falsely identified in the system and unable to correct the problems in a timely manner.

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ROMNEY COMES OUT IN SUPPORT OF MORE H-2A AND H-2B VISAS

Well at least Romney isn't 100% terrible on immigration issues.

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COME TO TENNESSEE IF YOU LIKE TO WALK

That's the message from the State Department of Safety which has come up with a completely silly interpretation of a new state law requiring people demonstrate legal immigration status to get a driver's license. I've dealt with the folks at the state's DMV and trust me when I tell you that they have no business trying to evaluate immigration documents. Of course, our state also has the intelligent requirement that you need a social security number to get married.

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US VISA POLICIES BLOCKING ADMISSION OF ARTISTS

This story has been playing out since post-9/11 rules went in to effect requiring every visa applicant to be interviewed in person at a US consulate before issuance of a work visa. Given that US consular officers typically take only two or three minutes for an interview, it's hard to see how we're gaining much in terms of security. If interviews must be conducted, how about allowing for video-conferencing or using another 21st century solution.

The article also discusses a legislative proposal to speed up processing. That legislation has has some success in the House with recent passage in the Immigration Subcommittee and Judiciary Committee.

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OMBUDSMAN ADDRESSES RECEIPT DELAY QUESTIONS

I know many of you are dealing with these problems.

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October 19, 2007

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: MARINA BELOTSERKOVSKY

I'm at the airport waiting to leave Singapore so I'll get a jump start on catching up on blogging...

ILW.com recently posted USCIS' 2006 Outstanding Americans By Choice list and one of the folks named is someone I've known for a few years in my volunteer capacity as a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Marina Belotserkovsky is well-known in the Russian community in New York and beyond and she's done outstanding work at HIAS. Here's the bio included with the well-deserved USCIS award.

Marina Belotserkovsky
Director of Russian Communications and Community Outreach, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
New York, New York

Marina Belotserkovsky is currently director of Russian Communications and Community Outreach at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), where she is responsible for assisting over one million members of the Russian-speaking community in America. She produces and hosts "HIAS Answers" for both radio and television. The program was developed to provide information for new immigrants when they arrive in the United States. Together with her HIAS colleagues, Ms. Belotserkovsky has been instrumental in the success of Local Russian-speaking Émigré Organizations (LOREO) and The Civic and Voter Educational Initiative, HIAS' key national outreach programs for Russian Americans.
 
Ms. Belotserkovsky immigrated to the United States in 1989 as a refugee from the Former Soviet Union. In 1996, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Before coming to the United States, Ms. Belotserkovsky founded and ran a school for gifted children in St. Petersburg, Russia. She has a graduate degree in linguistics and teaching from the Pedagogical State University in St. Petersburg.

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GOP DRIVES PRO-IMMIGRATION SENATOR MARTINEZ FROM LEADERSHIP POSITION

Roll Call is reporting that Florida's Senator Mel Martinez has resigned his position as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Chief among the reasons cited is Martinez's championing of immigration reform initiatives. As the GOP has drifted further in to anti-immigrant waters, pro-immigration voices are in the party are being silenced.

Another victim of this trend is Senator Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican who had one of the most pro-immigrant records in Congress. Brownback heavily emphasized immigration enforcement in his bid to get the Republican nomination for President. But his pro-immigration past plagued him throughout the campaign and yesterday he called it quits. Hopefully, when he returns to the Senate, he will also re-embrace his views on immigration. But I'm hardly optimistic. Only after Republicans take a few beatings in the next few election cycles are they likely to tone down the rhetoric and resume their traditional positions on the issue.

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NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL PANEL RECOMMENDS CREATION OF GOVERNMENT COMMISSION TO PROMOTE RECRUITING OF FOREIGN SCIENTISTS TO US

Reuters is reporting on the release of the report.

According to the NRC, "The global scientific enterprise thrives on the movement of students and scholars across borders and among institutions…For more than 50 years U.S. research universities, the envy of the world, have welcomed and fostered the talents of both foreign-born and U.S. students in the service of national and economic security." The report discusses the importance of having an immigration policy that promotes both science and security.

According to Reuters:

With fewer American students choosing careers in science and engineering, the American research and development effort cannot be sustained without a significant and steady infusion of foreign participants, the committee said.

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ON THE WAY HOME

Four flights over a day and a half of flying and I'll be back in Memphis. Singapore is an extraordinary country that has an amazing energy. The country has problems - particularly when it comes to freedom of speech and the press - but I can see why people like it here. And for the techies out there, this is nirvana. How many places in the world have six story shopping malls completely filled with electronics stores?

While here, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the folks at the Ministry of Manpower, the government agency charged with managing work visas to the country. They see their role as promoting economic development in the country by aiding in recruiting bright people who have something to offer the country. The unemployment rate is just 2.7% and, like the US, the country has an aging population. So the government is actively promoting immigration as a way to keep the country competitive and maintain a high standard of living.

The government's motto on immigration is "3S" - speed, service, security. The process for applying for a work visa is straightforward and user-friendly. And my favorite feature - those qualifying for H-1Bs and similar visas in Australia, the UK and other highly developed countries - can qualify for a work visa on the basis of qualifying in one of those countries. The ministry official I spoke to commented "If the US or the UK have done the hard work in screening qualifications, why not benefit?

I met lawyers from a number of other countries and most are amazed that the US - always ranked one of the most competitive nations in the world - is shooting itself in the foot by limiting the recruitment of global talent. But our loss is their gain.

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October 18, 2007

IMMIGRATION PROPONENT WINS KEY RACE IN MASSACHUSETTS

Hats off to Massachusetts congressional candidate Nicki Tsongas, widow of the late presidential candidate Paul Tsongas, who won a race to replace Congressman Marty Meehan. I've been following this race which was picked by Immigrants List because of Tsongas' opponents anti-immigration views. I'm especially happy to hear about this because I was a volunteer on Senator Tsongas' 1992 presidential campaign. Here's IL's press release on the election:

Pro-immigration Reform Candidate Wins Nasty Special Election

By Drew Seman

On Tuesday, October 16th Democrat Niki Tsongas won a hotly contested election despite facing an onslaught of anti-immigration attacks.  The Special Election for the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts foreshadows how the demonization of immigrants and strident opposition to immigration reform will shape the 2008 elections.   

Tsongas ran a balanced campaign, focusing primarily on war in Iraq and SCHIP, the well known health insurance legislation for disadvantaged children.  She spoke out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and did not back down from this position despite relentless attaches by her opponent.

The Boston Globe reported that her opponent, Jim Ogonowski, attempted to win the race by “[keeping] an unrelenting focus on a big, divisive issue: immigration.”  Ogonowski mimicked the immigration wedge strategy used unsuccessfully by many Republican candidates in 2006.  His final weekend radio ad attacked Tsongas for allegedly wanting to provide illegal immigrants with amnesty, social security, health care, college tuition and driver’s licenses.  One press report said that people in the district received daily anti-immigrant mailings from Ogonowski during the last week of the campaign. 

Immigrants’ List, the pro-immigration reform Political Action Committee, raised almost $20,000 for Niki Tsongas during the last week of the election. This money allowed her to counter Ogonowski’s attacks- he had even gone so far as to say he opposed SCHIP because it could give health care to some children of illegal immigrants.

The final vote shows Tsongas won by 6%.  Some analysts claimed that this was a real victory for Republicans and anti-immigrant voices.  This view is based on Kerry’s 57-41 trouncing of President Bush in 2004.  The reality is that Kerry was running in his home state with no Governor, Senate or Congressional race below him. 

A more accurate model for this contest would be midterm election numbers.  In 2002, Republican Governor Mitt Romney won the district with 55% of the vote.  In 2006, Democrat Gubernatorial Candidate Deval Patrick won with 53% of the vote.  Patrick’s race was a 3-way contest vs. Tsongas’s 5-way.

Ogonowski’s immigration wedge failed for a host of reasons, including the all important factor of money used to counter anti-immigrant falsehoods. Despite Ogonowski’s failure, there is little doubt that candidates will use anti-immigration attacks again in 2008.

As long as these attacks persist, immigration reform will remain stagnate.  That is why Immigrants’ List is fighting to ensure that these anti-immigration candidates lose and pro-immigrant voices win in 2008 and beyond.  Only then will Congress be able to move past the political rhetoric and finally pass immigration reform.  To join Immigrants’ List and learn more about what you can do to help, go to http://www.immigrantslist.org.

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About The Author

Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at gsiskind@visalaw.com.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.


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