June 21, 2008

The Foreign Fashion Models' Employment Relief Act of 2008

An odd story out of The Economist this week: Apparently not enough foreign fashion models are able to get H-1B's, a temporary work visa the U.S. government gives to foreign nationals for specialized occupations. The H-1B, of which only 65,000 are allotted per year, is frequently given to tech workers; companies such as Microsoft and Infosys sponsor many of the H-1B employees, and even they are feeling the pinch from not enough foreign talent coming into the country. "Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, testified to a Senate committee last year that the only way to solve the 'critical shortage of scientific talent' was to open up the country's doors."

This is causing the New York fashion industry to get their knickers in a twist. Coming to the rescue is Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY09), who has proposed a bill that would allow models to be reclassified into their own special immigration category. "This would free up more visas for the nerds; and it would allow 1,000 models to strut their stuff in America each year, compared with just 349 in 2007, half the annual number admitted between 2000 and 2005."

So why is Weiner sponsoring this bill?

Steve King, an Iowa congressman, thinks the bill should be called the “Ugly American Act” because it implies there are not enough beautiful people in the United States. But Mr Weiner, a bachelor accused by the tabloids and his fellow politicians of using the visa issue to get himself a glamorous date, says he's only thinking of New York's economy, which is heavily involved in the fashion industry.

The business generates thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue: the average photo-shoot costs about $100,000. If a foreign model is denied entry, he says, the production is likely to be lost to other countries. New York's skyline or California's hills can be easily photoshopped in later. This “beauty drain,” as the newspaper Politico calls it, affects make-up artists, stylists and photographers as well as media companies and advertising agencies.

In other words, if this bill becomes law, all those foreign models, who have such limited prospects for modeling in their own countries, would be allowed to model in the U.S. if they're to avoid working at a real job.

But what about the "supermodels," you ask? Fear not! There's some good news:

...[S]upermodels like Gisele Bündchen are in the clear. They are eligible for O-1 visas, given to those with “extraordinary ability,” like Nobel laureates.


Ronin said...

kakakaka!!! extraordinary ability to do what!?

strut their stuff better than others? who's the judge on this? tyra?


smoky can do that too!

the world is a circus and the US is the capital city!

JDsg said...

Exactly, Ronin! ;)