Each year, the federal government approves a total of 85,000 H1B visas1. In April of last year, 233,000 applications were submitted. This year, we expect even more.


With a pending application for an H1B visa, Ravi Kandoi hopes to be on of the lucky 85,000 who are chosen to have their visa approved. Ravi has many accomplishments on his resume, including presenting his work at TEDxCLEVESTATE2, starting his own business in his home country of India, and earning several degrees including a Bachelors in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, a Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering and an MBA from Cleveland State University.

Ravi is talented in his current role as a security systems analyst, and translates his focus, drive, and attention to detail to making sure he is providing himself and his employer with the best opportunity to continue working together. If his application is rejected this year, he will have two more chances to apply while continuing to work under his student visa. This is possible due to a recent update to the STEM OPT program3, which now allows F-1 student visa holders to work full-time in a position related to their field of study for up to three years after they graduate.

Ravi is hopeful that the updated OPT extension will boost his chances of obtaining an H1B – he is poised to accomplish great things with his current employer, a growing enterprise with a small team based in downtown Cleveland.

A newcomer to Cleveland from attending college in Pittsburgh, Howard is also familiar with the waiting process following an H1B application. He works as a chemical engineer with a larger organization in Northeast Ohio, where he has spent the last several years impressing the team as an intern and co-op student. Proving that he will drive successful outcomes and make an impact in research and development, the organization has filed an application for his H1B visa.

With both a Bachelor and Masters degree in Chemical Engineering, Howard possesses skills and expertise in his field that makes him a critical member of the team. The organization’s productivity and ability to grow would directly suffer as a result if he were not able to successfully obtain a visa to continue his work.

This is also Howard’s first attempt of three possible chances. He feels optimistic about his future in Northeast Ohio, and while it is far away from his hometown of Beijing, he has chosen to purchase a home in the Cleveland Heights neighborhood.

On Thursday, April 7th, the federal government closed the window for U.S. employers to file applications for H-1B visas for workers like Ravi and Howard. Global Cleveland is supporting today’s “H1B Day of Action” to highlight the contributions and opportunities presented by highly-skilled immigrants to bridge the U.S. economy’s talent needs. This day of action will showcase events and communication efforts being held across the Midwest by Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network members. The WE Global Network is a project of Welcoming America and is comprised of more than 20 regional economic development initiatives (including Global Cleveland), which are working to tap into the economic development opportunities created by immigrants.

Initiatives focused on tackling these problems include facilitating international student retention and high-skilled immigrant integration into the economy. Economists estimate that the U.S. economy will have over 1 million unfilled STEM positions by 2020. For the 2013-2014 academic year, Ohio was nationally ranked as the eighth-largest provider of international postsecondary education, with 29,488 international students. Almost 80% of those students’ field of study was a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) discipline or a business and management course of study4, representing a critical answer to help Greater Cleveland’s health care, education, manufacturing, IT, and other sectors of the economy find the talent they need to compete, create jobs, and raise the standard of living for all American workers and families.

Recognizing that a critical component of international talent integration includes collaboration with employers, Global Cleveland convened 20 employers and higher education representatives in November of 2015. This roundtable discussion included answers to questions about the international hiring process and employers brainstorming solutions and ideas for future programming. Research findings from a Hiring Practices Survey5 as well as the results of a similar survey conducted in St. Louis6 informed the conversation. Resources and information about future Global Employer initiatives continue to be developed and are available at globalcleveland.org/global-employers

The opportunities and challenges surrounding high-skilled global talent are not just issues in Silicon Valley and the coasts, but are at the core of America’s economic future in regions from Cleveland to Detroit to St. Louis. While federal action remains stalled in Congress, rust belt cities are moving forward in efforts to attract and integrate high-skilled global talent. This not only provides our local companies with a competitive advantage, but also positions the region for economic growth and prosperity.

Help spread the word about the competitive advantage immigrant talent offers Cleveland:

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  1. The H1B visa is an employment-based visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations https://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/h-1b-specialty-occupation/h-1b-visa
  2. https://www.csuohio.edu/engineering/news/engineering-and-business-students-collaborate-tedxclevestate
  3. https://globalcleveland.org/newsletters/447-new-rule-on-opt-extension
  4. Data on international enrollment is derived from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics. Available here: http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/
  5. https://globalcleveland.org/for-employers/global-employers
  6. http://www.weglobalnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/7-Recommendations_One-page.pdf