When a friend of mine posted that question on my Facebook page I couldn’t stop laughing. After my laughing fit was over, it really got me thinking — is Bieber actually on an H1B? After a 0.22 second Google search the answer is: no, the Canadian singer is not on an H1-B visa. Turns out there is an O visa program in the United States, which according to the USCIS website is for an “ individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics”. The O-1 Visa is also commonly known as the “Celebrity Visa” , given to the famous and/or Nobel Peace Prize winners.
The H1B and the O-1 are of the same principal, that of allowing nonimmigrants to work and live in the United States. The differences are found more with the level of wages than with the industry. It’s interesting to see that to qualify for the O visa, not only do you need to be a genius, but you also need to meet an additional of 3 out of 12. Some of items on this list include participating on a panel, writing original scholarly work, winning prizes, or just making a lot of money. Another difference is that the O visa does not have a cap, and is an easier process to go through given the status of those that are applying.
I got to thinking about all we need to go through when we decide that we want to make a life elsewhere. It’s interesting to see what difference a wage level can make when someone is trying to make a living in a country other than their own. Illegal immigrants in America usually get there because of their lack of opportunity in their home country. Nonimmigrant workers in the middle-class range need to go through a good level of red tape and fall under a regulated cap amount to make it to America. Nonimmigrant workers with a very high salary, on the other end of the spectrum, have a red carpet awaiting their arrival.
I wonder about comparing immigration processes in Europe to those of America, and how they compare with the wage level. It would also be interesting to compare the Americans that go abroad to work in H1-B type jobs, and what they have to go through in terms of regulation. (Side note: I am a proponent of immigration laws and a certain amount of regulation in each and every country, because I do believe we all have to go through paperwork to maintain a certain level of formality when changing jobs and moving from country to country.)
The wage requirements between the H1 and the O visa got me thinking about how people that come in through an O visa usually come in with a lot of money already in the pocket. H1-B visas usually go to foreign employees and to international students graduating from US universities. Given the different level of status between the foreigners and the international students, and the wage levels, perhaps international students should be brought into a different pool than the H1-B visa. Even though both groups of H1 workers are in the US for the same purpose/same industries, their wage level isn’t the same. Justin Bieber is in a different industry, but also making a living as a nonimmigrant in the United States with a higher salary level. My thought, to combat the H1-B cap, is for recent graduates to be pooled under a different group given that a bachelors degree doesn’t result in the same wage level as someone coming in with 5+ years of experience from a foreign country. Just a thought.