Globalized engineering requires an immigration strategy

In recent years, a number of factors have played a role in the increasing globalization of the engineering industry. Many feel a key driver is the economic advantages global companies can realize from offshoring. Others point to a reduction of engineers graduating from U.S. universities, although some question the existence of an actual shortage.


In recent years, a number of factors have played a role in the increasing globalization of the engineering industry. Many feel a key driver is the economic advantages global companies can realize from offshoring. Others point to a reduction of engineers graduating from U.S. universities, although some question the existence of an actual shortage. More relevant may be a degradation of math and science education in the K-12 grades. According to a Duke University study, “even if the nation did everything possible to address these shortcomings, it will probably take 10 to 15 years before major benefits become apparent.”

Regardless, engineering talent today is increasingly pulled from an international pool. Whether it’s via multinational locations, international design teams or outsourced development assignments, foreign-born engineers will continue to play a crucial role in the engineering industry of the United States. Although navigating the immigration process remains a significant challenge, and securing visas for foreign nationals can be met with many obstacles, options do exist for building a global workforce.

The H-1B visa, designed for applicants qualified to fill a specialty occupation on a temporary basis, is the most well-known temporary visa. The annual mandated cap of 65,000 available visas has made it a less viable option in recent years, because this quota is typically met on the first day of the filing period.

A number of alternatives to the H-1B visa exist, however, and some are processed much more quickly. An understanding of all options will extend an organization’s ability to fill temporary engineering positions throughout the year, and is critical for those companies wanting to compete for the top talent on a global level. Options include the following:

  • TN: The TN visa, based on the North American Free Trade Agreement, is available only to Canadian and Mexican professionals coming to the U.S. to perform professional activities. The TN visa was recently extended from a one-year to a three-term, and can also be renewed indefinitely. There is no cap on the number of TN visas allotted.

  • L-1: Similar to the H-1B, the L-1 visa allows companies to hire foreign employees on a temporary basis with the ability to provide permanent residency. The L-1 visa is available if a company is affiliated with a foreign operation, in which a foreign national is coming to the U.S. for a managerial or executive level position. To be eligible, employees must have worked for the foreign company for at least one of the last three years.

  • O-1: The O-1 visa is designed for applicants in business and science fields exhibiting extraordinary ability within their industry. An O-1 visa holder is admitted to the United States for the duration of an activity, which may include an academic year or business or scientific project.

  • E Visa: This category is available for foreign nationals from countries that signed the Friendship, Commerce, Navigation (FCN) treaty. The E-2 visa can be used for engineers that are citizens of FCN treaty countries that have made a significant investment within the US, while the E-3 is specifically for citizens of the Australia intending to work in a specific, skilled job.

As more companies recruit specialized foreign workers, the H-1B visa will likely continue to rise in demand. Employers within the engineering field will be challenged to determine when international resources present the best fit be it on a project basis or to meet ongoing staffing needs. Either way, it’s clear that the continued globalization of the industry requires a strategic review of the available immigration options to ensure ongoing competitiveness in the new international marketplace.

Author Information
Robert Meltzer is CEO of VisaNow, an electronic-based immigration service provider. He can be reached at .

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me