Immigrants in Big Data Occupations

Immigrants in Big Data Occupations

Immigrants in Big Data Occupations 1920 1080 Kathleen Grzegorek

“Big Data” occupations include the Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Data Analytics and Computer Vision industries.  SGG regularly handles cases involving these fields, and they require a special strategic touch in order to overcome U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Department of Labor (DOL) barriers.  As immigration attorneys working on these cases, we have found that a strong presentation of the facts is instrumental and critical.  To do that, we must take a deep dive into explaining the field and what the job entails.  This involves a complex and detailed analysis of what education and experience leads to the knowledge needed to perform the job as well as a breakdown of the job itself, in order to demonstrate that the petitioner and the beneficiary meet the legal criteria.

Currently, there is a huge demand by employers for individuals who are skilled in these occupations.  There aren’t enough Americans to fill these highly complex jobs in an emerging and fast-growing field with many applications.  One would think that talent would be easy to find, as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence classes are the most popular classes at our universities.  At Caltech, one of the highest ranked schools in science and engineering, Yaser S. Abu-Mustafa’s undergraduate Introductory Machine Learning Online Course has had over 4 million views.

“I do not view a Caltech MOOC as an attempt at mass education,” Professor Abu-Mostafa concludes – slightly overlooking the definition of the acronym. “I view it as an attempt at mass targeting of talent.” (Times Higher Education, October 9, 2014).

However, this talent is what the job market is having a very hard time finding, whether it is a company devoted to Data Analytics in itself, companies using these concepts to research, develop and analyze products and services, or institutions performing research in a wide variety of fields.

In a September 2017 article for, Brittany-Marie Swanson notes that it “seems like every company wants to hire a data scientist, but identifying and attracting the right man or woman for the job is often more challenging than hiring managers anticipate. That’s because data science is a complex, multidisciplinary field with a small (yet highly diverse) pool of talent — and finding the right fit requires a precise mix of preparation and process.”  The difficulty only increases once the right candidate is identified, if he or she is a foreign national and needs the underlying immigration approvals before the candidate can begin the position.  Further, once the employee is on board, he or she will need to maintain his or her immigration status while in the United States.

U.S. immigration laws for the hiring of skilled workers are a compilation of legal criteria, with no unifying field theory, and are entirely out of date with the U.S. job market.  Areas of particular disconnect are the Big Data fields.  For example, anyone seeking an H-1B or permanent visa to the United States must be coded into a specific occupation listed in a database created by the DOL.  USCIS has lumped individuals working in these fields into the standard IT and computer positions – positions that have been a particular target of the recent war on the H-1B classification and often do not accurately capture the work done by individuals in these fields.

Why has the DOL not developed specific occupational codes for Big Data related job positions?  Is it cognitive biases that adversely affect analysis of these job positions for immigration purposes?  For example, confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, such as an emphasis placed on “hiring American,” by the President’s March 2017 Executive Order.  In addition, individuals may discredit information that does not support their views – that these occupations are computer occupations and no longer professional positions.

In order to successfully handle immigration work in this field, attorneys need to use Big Data concepts – Volume, Velocity and Variety – to transform a visa petition into something of value, which is also known in our world as something “approvable.”

To do so, we narrow down the volume of the field, taking what applies to the specific business or institution and the occupation in question, and, most importantly, break it down into terms that are understandable to those outside of the field – such as USCIS adjudicators, consular officers at U.S. Embassies abroad and the DOL.

Velocity is a simple concept in our field.  Speed is critical to acquiring talent and that applies to the underlying U.S. immigration status as well.  This involves gathering data using various modes, processing the data, analysis and the development of a legal scaffolding, all as quickly as possible in order to recruit and maintain the talented people who do this work.

Variety among our clients is what makes the legal challenge so rewarding for us.  We work with clients in many different Big Data fields, ranging from business intelligence applications for industry and cultural institutions to biomedical research.

To learn more about our experience with these fields, please contact us.