Forum held to discuss faculty visa requirements
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 17:05
Currently UW Tacoma is the home of Dr. Lee Charles West, a chemistry lecturer, but he will likely have to return to Australia when his E-3 Visa expires in the near future because at this time UW Tacoma is not seeking to renew it. This has caused an outcry by students from the Environmental Science Department who have taken classes with Dr. West. He will be leaving at the end of summer while another science lecturer, Dr. Ursula Valdez will have to leave in May, leaving her whole class to a new professor before finals.
Chancellor Debra Friedman stated, “I do not set immigration laws nor do I set visa policy. What we have to do is comply,” at a forum held in Carwein Auditorium in the Key building at 11 a.m. on April 30. The forum was to advance communication and understanding on issues surrounding the appointment of faculty at UWT who have visa requirements.
Chancellor Friedman opened the forum by saying that, “When students express an interest in the quality of their education and fight for it, that’s the kind of institution I hope to be part of.”
At the UW between July 2010 and June 2011 there were a total of 1,583 International Scholars on H1-B, J-1, O-1, and E-3 Visas. In this time period, UW Tacoma had 12 of these 1,583 Scholars. 8 of them were on an H1-B Visas, 2 of them had a J-1 Visa and 1 of them had an E-3 Visa.
The E-3 visa classification permits Australian nationals to work in specialty occupations in the U.S. for up to two years, and may be renewed indefinitely provided the beneficiary does not intend to remain permanently in the U.S.
Friedman said, “UW will sponsor E-3 status only for individuals eligible for H-1B status.”
According to the UW’s International Scholar website, “Although the regulations do not limit the number of years that the E-3 may be used, E-3 is a nonimmigrant status which does not permit “dual intent” (intent to immigrate). The beneficiary must establish to the satisfaction of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the employment opportunity is both temporary and short-term. If the position is a permanent academic appointment leading to UW-sponsored Permanent Residence the H-1B visa is the suitable visa alternative.”
The beneficiary employment must be both temporary and short-term, by UW policy. Temporary, by definition, means “not a permanent position,” but short-term is even more vague.
Friedman said, “The argument we have to make when we pursue an H1B visa is the following: we have to say this is the very best person in the world for this job.” According to Friedman, the kind of position Dr. West is in now does not satisfy this requirement. Friedman also noted that there is no protest at this point that could change this; that a visa is a government position.
She continued, “The only thing a university does is apply for a visa status. The question is what we apply for. The E-3 is not an appropriate visa any longer—it has been renewed—it is no longer temporary employment [in the case of Dr. Lee West].” She remarked that the current Visa situation is inconsistent and there was a need to move to a different employment situation which has its own set of rules.
Friedman also discussed multi-year contracts. She said, “The shortest contract is a multi-year contract,” which lasts at minimum three years, “and we haven’t been doing that because of budget cuts. We haven’t been extending multi-year contracts to lecturers.”
Currently 75% of UW employees are permanent faculty and staff. Friedman stated that UWT has an, “ironclad commitment to permanent faculty and staff.” She said that, “because we don’t know from year to year what the legislature is going to do, we cannot tie our hands by having every pot of money tied up.”
Friedman also explained that the E-3 Visa was set up for bringing Australian nationals into a tenure track. She said that, “We’re using the E-3 in this case as liberally as one can possibly imagine. He [West] has had at least one renewal on the E-3.”
Friedman noted that this was, “not ideal, because there was no intention to go forward with the H1-B. We never worked on the H1-B in Dr. West’s case because he was never in a permanent position. This is a backwards position. There was never a permanent position.”