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Study finds demand up for foreign workers in region

The largest employers of H-1B immigrants on Long

The largest employers of H-1B immigrants on Long Island are Stony Brook University and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset. Most of the workers are in research. Credit: iStock

The metropolitan area has the highest demand for temporary visas for highly skilled immigrants -- called H-1B visas -- of any area in the country, the Brookings Institution reported Wednesday.

Employers in the metropolitan area, which includes New York City, Long Island and New Jersey, requested visas for an average of 52,921 foreign-born workers in 2010 and 2011, or 16.3 percent of the national average. Companies in the Los Angeles area ranked second, with 18,048 average requests per year, or 5.5 percent of the total.

The study by the Washington, D.C.-based research organization focused on hiring patterns in 106 metropolitan areas under the H-1B program, which was created in 1990 to allow U.S. companies to hire foreign workers for three to six years while they seek permanent residency.

The largest employers of H-1B immigrants on Long Island are Stony Brook University and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset. Stony Brook reported that it hired 120 H-1B immigrants this year, down slightly from 140 two years ago. About 1 percent of the university's 18,000 employees are H-1B immigrants, most of them working in science or math departments or in research labs, said William Arens, dean of international academic programs and services at Stony Brook.

"There are certain skills you can only get from a particular individual, certain people just have certain skills that you need," Arens said, adding that most H-1B immigrants come from China, India, Korea and Russia.

Anil Kapoor, chief executive of SVAM International, an information technology company in Great Neck, said that at one point SVAM employed 70 percent H-1B immigrants, but they now make up less than 20 percent of the staff.

"We have steered away from the H-1B program," Kapoor said, because "there's too much bureaucracy. On top of that, a lot of the good talent out of India where we used to hire are finding that there are opportunities locally so there are not a lot of people willing to come."

Mitchell Zwaik, an immigration lawyer at Zwaik, Gilbert and Associates in Ronkonkoma, said that he has seen a slight uptick in H-1B requests because the economy is recovering and because there is always a need for engineers and IT specialists in the United States.

The study highlights the nation's growing reliance on workers from overseas to fill positions in science, technology and engineering. Just 4 percent of the world's undergraduate degrees in engineering are awarded in the United States, it said.

With Bloomberg News