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H-1B Visa Reform Bill

About the H-1B

The H-1B is a Visa permit issued by the US government for high-skilled immigrants. This kind of Visa must be company-sponsored (an individual person cannot apply alone), and typically, companies request this kind of visa for international students that have been working for them for a while, or for bringing a high-skilled professional from abroad.

The rules

Annually, the US government issues 85,000 permits, broken down in the following categories:

  • Regular H1B Quota : 65,000
  • H1B Masters Degree Quota ( only US Degrees) : 20,000

Frequently, the number of subscriptions exceeds the number of available visa, in which case a computer generated random selection/ Lottery is conducted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In 2015, whopping 172,500 applications where received.

The issue

According to a draft legislation put forward by Chuck Grassley, a Republican Senator and Dick Durbin, a Democrat, the visas, originally designed to help companies fill critical skills gaps, have been used by Indian information technology firms to send thousands of engineers and programmers to the U.S. to work. Allegedly, these companies are bringing inexperienced professionals from abroad, paying them lower wages and benefits, and dismissing U.S. citizen professionals.

Allegedly, the outsourcing companies dominate the visa program by flooding the system with applications, granting them thousands of visas. From the top 20 companies granted visas in 2014, 7 are outsourcing firms based in India. The top two are Unisys and Tata Consultancy Services, which earned 5,650 and 3,454 visas, respectively.

The reform Bill

According to the draft legislation put forward by the two Senators, Any company with more than 50 staff won’t be able to hire H-1B-visa holders if more than half of their employees already hold skilled-worker permits.

The bill gives the Department of Labor enhanced authority to review, investigate, and audit firms to make sure they are sticking to the rules. It would also penalize fraudulent or abusive conduct. Firms would need to provide records on H-1B and L-1 holders, including wage data, worker education levels, place of employment and gender. Any employer with more than 100 employees and 15% of them on H-1B visas will be audited every year to make sure they are complying.

In addition, The new bill proposes allocating the work permits on merit to the top foreign students at U.S. universities and giving a leg up to those who hold more advanced degrees, earning higher wages and with the most valuable skills.

If the proposed law is passed and an employer is found to violate the terms of it they must pay a fine of between $5,000 and $25,000 for each violation and will be liable for any employees harmed by the violation through lost wages or benefits. The company will not be able to ask to employ another overseas skilled worker for at least a year.


The New York Times

The Wall Street Journal



6 Data science podcasts you should listen to


Podcasts first popped up nearly a decade ago, following the ascent of Apple’s iPod, and nowadays there’s a whole lot of podcasts available on the most varied subjects. Below you can find some tech podcasts that I personally listen to. They are mostly about machine learning, data science, and software engineering.

1) Talking Machines

Talking Machines is hosted by the former radio journalist Katherine Gorman, who has teamed up with Ryan Adams, a Harvard professor teaching classes on machine learning, to do a twice-monthly podcast on that very topic.

2) Partially Derivative

This weekly podcast is an hosted by Chris Albon, Jonathan Morgan, and Vidya Spandana, data scientists  and founders of the tech company Partially Derivative is a podcast about the data of everything. Each week they look at a new way that data has changed how we understand and experience the world.

They make it easy for people to get excited about algorithms, often by discussing real-world examples.

3) Linear Digressions

Linear Digressions  is a great podcast from the Udacity team. In each episode, the hosts explore machine learning and data science through interesting (and often very unusual) applications.

The podcasts is conducted in a way that makes it easier for beginners to understand, and the discussion commonly link to subjects taught on their MOOC.

4)  O’Reilly Data Show

The O’Reilly Data Show explores the opportunities and techniques driving big data and data science. Through interviews and analysis, they highlight the people putting data to work.

5) Talk Python to Me

Talk Python to Me is a weekly podcast hosted by Michael Kennedy. The show covers a wide array of Python topics as well as many related topics (e.g. MongoDB, AngularJS, DevOps).

6) the R Podcast

The host of the R-Podcast is Eric Nantz, a statistician working in the life sciences industry who has been using R since 2004. They give practical advice on how to take advantage of R’s capabilities to accomplish innovative and robust data analyses.  Along the way, they highlight the additional tools and packages that greatly enhance the experience of using R, and highlight resources that can help people become experts with R.

In addition to the audio podcast, they also produce screencasts for hands-on demonstrations for those topics that are best explained via video.


DHS proposed new 24 Month STEM OPT Extension Rule

International students in the USA are eligible to get a 12-month working visa upon graduation, called Optional Practice Training (OPT). For certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), there was an OPT Extension rule, that would allow the student to extend the mentioned visa for extra 17 months (for a total of 29 months).

That OPT Extension rule was judged illegal and cancelled by a federal court earlier 2015, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed and published a new rule on October 16, 2015, where those students will now be able to extend the OPT period by 24 months (for a total of 36 months).

These are great news for international students in STEM that are looking to stay working in the USA after their graduation.


source: Federal Register