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Indiana city sees many high-skilled immigrants

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Companies based in a central Indiana city are hiring a greater percentage of people with visas for high-skilled foreign workers than any place in the U.S. other than California's Silicon Valley, according to a new study.

A majority of the nearly 630 of the H-1B visas visas obtained by companies in Columbus went to Cummins Inc. and LHP Software, The Republic reported Thursday.

A report by the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank said Columbus employers in the past two years requested 14.6 such visas per 1,000 workers, trailing only the 17.1 per 1,000 workers sought in the San Jose area.

In the most recent allotment, Cummins obtained 300 H-1B visas, including about 210 for the engine maker's Columbus-area facilities.

"There's just not enough U.S.-born talent to satisfy the demand in the labor market," said Lorrie Meyer, executive director of global talent management for Cummins.

She said the ability to hire such immigrant workers is important because about half of the country's college graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs are foreign-born.

Cummins also wants a diversified workforce that reflects its customers and suppliers around the world, in part because international students bring different experiences and language skills to the company, Meyer said.

George Devidze, in-house counsel for LHP Software, is a native of the former Soviet republic of Georgia who remained in the United States under an H-1B visa after graduating from Indiana University's law school in Indianapolis.

Devidze, who's now a U.S. citizen, said the company faces a major constraint on its growth because of the difficulty in hiring engineers despite aggressive recruitment efforts.

"If we could find 80 or 90 qualified people, we'd hire all of them," he said.

For the most recent fiscal year, the company obtained 80 visas, Devidze said. Nearly all of LHP's visas go to international students who are graduating from U.S. colleges.

Raj Patil, a native of India, joined LHP last month after graduating from Clemson University with a master's degree in mechanical engineering.

He's working with LHP under a program that allows some foreign-born graduates of U.S. colleges to remain in the country for a year to work in their field.

Patil hopes LHP will be able to obtain an H-1B visa for him to stay in Columbus longer.

"I like the city," he said. "It has everything I need. And the most important part is the job."

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  • This issue isn't...
    The issue isn't that foreign workers are taking US jobs in Columbus. The issue is that most US workers don't want to work in Columbus. It's a nice town, but it doesn't offer the same attractions as a larger city. A techie in Portland looking for a job probably isn't looking at Columbus as a possible job destination. They might like the city amenities, the ability to find work with another firm without relocating from Portland, proximity to family, etc. A firm in Columbus might have to pay above market to pull the same worker to the city. An international has none of these issue. They already moved halfway around the world to work. No family ties in the US. They're looking for the best opportunity with no consideration of the locational baggage.
  • Ridiculous comparison
    What a ridiculous comparison this story makes. Columbus is a tiny little Hooterville. Silicon Valley is the epicenter of the tech industry.
  • Please
    I have a few Turkish friends who attended university in the United States and are now employed at Cummins. All of them make in excess of $100k, so if that isn't enough to relocate for, I'm not sure what would be. It's not their fault or the company's fault if immigrant workers are more employable than American-born engineers.
  • pay up
    There are 10s of thousands of laid off engineers in the US. If you pay enough, they will move to Columbus. Companies use H-1B visa workers because they don't want to pay the US rate for talent.
  • This is what immigration is about!
    Come on people that think I am a bigot, or prejudice against immigrants...NOT! I come from Italian immigrants who came to US, respected the country enough to become US Citizens, acheive careers, and carry on strong family values!! I applaude these businesses and immigrants for taking the opportunities. I do think the visa's should be limited, and the jobs based on their eventual citizenships, but better than illegals, that expect us all to adapt to them, cater to their "rights"???

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