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Visa woe pushes scientist out of US

Last August, I reported on Mohammad Sajid, a UK citizen who was barred from returning to the US pending several months of linkurl:background checks;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53418/ - twice. On Monday I got an e-mail from Sajid saying he is leaving his lab in the US, where he works on anti-malarial drugs, to take a job at Leiden University in the Netherlands. "It's been a really tough choice," Sajid said. "The main reason is the travel. It's as simple as that." When I last spo

By | April 10, 2008

Last August, I reported on Mohammad Sajid, a UK citizen who was barred from returning to the US pending several months of linkurl:background checks;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53418/ - twice. On Monday I got an e-mail from Sajid saying he is leaving his lab in the US, where he works on anti-malarial drugs, to take a job at Leiden University in the Netherlands. "It's been a really tough choice," Sajid said. "The main reason is the travel. It's as simple as that." When I last spoke to Sajid, he was contemplating returning to the UK when his J1 Visa expired in November. He ended up not going back for fear he could be delayed from re-entering the US a third time. While he continues to work in the US, any travel bears with it the risk of being barred again. "I've been missing [malaria] meetings, important family events. It's just not an option anymore," said Sajid. Depending on the source, the numbers about whether the US is losing its scientific talent seem conflicted. One recent analysis by the FDA-funded Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education states that PhDs are leaving the US at a linkurl:higher rate;http://orise.orau.gov/news/releases/2008/fy08-16.htm than earlier in the decade. The number of PhDs who stay in the US for two years after earning their degree dropped from 71% to 66% in 2005. On the other hand, the NSF recently reported that the supply of scientists and engineers in the US linkurl:continues to grow,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54530/ and that the unemployment rate in the field is the lowest it's been in years. Although Sajid has to abandon his projects, he will remain an affiliate member of the Sandler Center for Basic Research in Parasitic Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. The ironic thing, said Sajid, is that once he leaves the US, he'll be able to return to the US whenever he needs to on a tourist visa.
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Avatar of: MATTHEW CATLEY

MATTHEW CATLEY

Posts: 1

April 10, 2008

Over the last couple of years I have been offered 3 jobs in small biotech companies in the US. I was very keen to take up these offers and the companies were looking to employ someone with my unique skills set. However, on one occasion H1B visas ran out on the day i was offered the job, then i applied the next year to be rejected by the random selection procedure i eventually decided it was not worth the stress and decided not to bother again. I have now taken up a position at a biotech in the UK and will probably never try and work in the US again. \nI have a PhD and have worked productively in a world leading respiratory research institute. I feel that the US needs a visa system which takes into account the quality of the applicant and their ability to fill vital skills shortages in the labour market. The random selection proceedure could reject a highly skilled applicant over an applicant with very limited skills.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

April 10, 2008

Indeed, I have experienced a similar situation. However, in my case, I am married to a clinical psychologist (California licensed), who obtained her PsyD while spending 10 years in the USA. Originally arriving on a J-1, she was required to return to Ukraine to fulfill her "2 year home residency requirement" once her training was completed. We are still in Ukraine.\n\nThe US government, in their infinite wisdom, rejected her waiver request (in order for her to remain in the USA, where she helps (oops, correction -- HELPED) the homeless in San Francisco), in spite of the fact that the Ukrainian Government officially agreed to let her stay in the USA. This is generally considered the hurdle that must be overcome -- but not this time. USA immigration is the high hurdle.\n\nMoreover, I am a highly-trained neuroscientist (PhD with 7 years postdoctoral experience); born, raised, and trained primarily in California. Because I love my wife significantly more (needless to say) than the shortsighted and floundering American Government, the abhorrent U.S. judicial system, and the outdated set of naive, paper-pushing, blood-sucking immigration laws, I left the USA with my wife. Thus, in my situation, the brain-drain was a 2-for-1 sale. Good job USA, good job. \n\nI'm so perturbed by how the US Government has been operating in the last few years, I'm not sure that we'll return. Returning was the original intent, but that sentiment is changing for both my wife and I. Hell, if we start earning Euros, we could do a lot better (monetarily) living in Europe. Plus, we could develop our budding careers in the highly prosperous and growing European Union, instead of the "good ol' USA." Oh yeah... we can use real stem cells over here, too!!!\n\nLastly, I find it ridiculous that we have been "punished" for abiding by the law. We filed paperwork when we had to, we paid all of the outrageous fees to the government AND lawyers as we were required, and waited for the rejection letters to arrive. So, we left the country when we were supposed to as well. Shockingly, we know, first hand, another couple that arrived to the USA on the same visa and in the same program. They decided to remain in the USA ILLEGALLY for over 6 years. They applied and were granted the waiver of the 2-year home residency requirement imposed by the USA. Where's the justice? Where's the consistency? Where's the LAW and ORDER??? It's totally absurd...
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

April 10, 2008

I have just arrived in the US to take up a post-doctoral position and have been astounded by the legal red-tape involved in working here on a J1 visa - had I known, i probably would have thought twice about it. After reading this article Im now a little worried about returning home to the UK for family events this year! I understand the US's increase in security but surely it should be easier than this for those invited to work here.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

April 11, 2008

Correct me if I'm worng but my understanding is that the J1 is an "exchange student" visa made popular by '80s teen movies. These are not really appropriate visas for people intending to make a permanent career in the US. Of course you can apply for a waiver but then you must recognize you are asking to be judged exceptional among all the other exceptional foreigners.\nAnd all this sour grapes talk about how the US is suffering from losing yet another overeducated life scientist is getting a little tiresome. To the married poster - if Europe is able and willing to foot the bill for your research then all of mankind will benefit from it in due time, right? Why the anger then? I'm not even able to afford to visit Europe these days.\nAs far as the original post, it seems to me UCSF could have made a better legal effort to get this guy naturalized but they decided it was enough to just have him telecommute.

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