Strange but true….I know of a friend (classical opera singer) stuck in NYC without work since she is unable to get the required visa. (Source: The Economist)
Beauty and the Geek
Jun 19th 2008 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition
A new bill proposes more visas be allocated to fashion models
IT’S not often that fashion models are paired with IT workers, except in the lurid fantasies of computer geeks. But because of a decision made back in 1990 they must compete for the same over-subscribed H-1B, a temporary work visa for specialised occupations. Until 2004, when the government lowered the cap on the number of H-1Bs it issued, it didn’t matter so much. But now demand has far outstripped the limited number of visas available, and many foreign models are being denied the chance to sashay down America’s catwalks.
Anthony Weiner, a New York congressman, wants to fix this tragic glitch. He has proposed a bill amending the rules so that the models will be reclassified into their own special immigration category. This would free up more visas for the nerds; and it would allow 1,000 models to strut their stuff in America each year, compared with just 349 in 2007, half the annual number admitted between 2000 and 2005.
Only 65,000 H-1B visas are awarded annually and they get snapped up within days of becoming available, most of them going to tech workers. Companies like Infosys and Microsoft were among the top H-1B users in 2007. But even these companies are being constrained. Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, testified to a Senate committee last year that the only way to solve the “critical shortage of scientific talent” was to open up the country’s doors.
Steve King, an Iowa congressman, thinks the bill should be called the “Ugly American Act” because it implies there are not enough beautiful people in the United States. But Mr Weiner, a bachelor accused by the tabloids and his fellow politicians of using the visa issue to get himself a glamorous date, says he’s only thinking of New York’s economy, which is heavily involved in the fashion industry.
The business generates thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue: the average photo-shoot costs about $100,000. If a foreign model is denied entry, he says, the production is likely to be lost to other countries. New York’s skyline or California’s hills can be easily photoshopped in later. This “beauty drain”, as the newspaper Politico calls it, affects make-up artists, stylists and photographers as well as media companies and advertising agencies.
The visas for models bill is still far from becoming reality, and comprehensive immigration reform is a distant dream. Luckily though, supermodels like Gisele Bündchen are in the clear. They are eligible for O-1 visas, given to those with “extraordinary ability,” like Nobel laureates.