Nearly 2.5 million jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields went unfilled in 2018 and millions more will remain open this year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. To understand a key reason why, consider the case of Phae Megat.
Megat (not his real name), a Malaysian native, came to the U.S. on a student visa to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University. After graduation, he moved back to Kuala Lumpur to work as a geoscientist for a subsidiary of an international oil and gas company.
In 2013, Megat transferred to the company's Houston headquarters to work as a geoapplications specialist. Four years later, he was repatriated to Kuala Lumpur to fill a position that was vacated by a retiring geoscientist with similar skills.
Megat has reached a crossroads. He wants to work in the U.S., but his employer needs him in Malaysia. Although he has been applying for jobs in the U.S. with other organizations, Megat has found that, despite his impressive credentials, companies are reluctant even to interview him. He suspects this is because of his work visa status, which is why he doesn't want to reveal his real name.
Employers, on average, reported that they had three people working full time on managing the organization’s immigration processes.
Source: SHRM Council for Global Immigration 2016 Employer Immigration Metrics Survey.
Typically, a company would apply for an H-1B visa for an applicant with his skills. However, only 85,000 H-1B visas are granted annually to U.S. companies using a randomized lottery system. About two-thirds of applicants are rejected.