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6 Tips to Overcome H-1B Visa Changes

Posted by Keith Van Auken on Sep 23, 2019 9:00:00 AM

In Insider, ICS insights, IT, client

The tech industry is best known for its rapid pace and technological advancements, but since the field is constantly evolving, there's also a continuous demand for skilled workers in this area.

A company may not always have candidates available to fill their open positions. The United States specifically is experiencing a shortage of tech workers. In 2017, CNBC reported that there were approximately three million more STEM-focused jobs in the U.S. than there were skilled workers to fill those positions. Due to the shortage of skilled individuals across fields, employers often choose to import talent from overseas to meet the increasing demand for employees.

Under the current administration, employers are facing widespread difficulty when it comes to sourcing talent abroad. In April 2017, President Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, which aims to protect the interests of U.S. workers by creating higher wages and employment rates for U.S. workers, while strictly enforcing immigration laws. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for foreign workers to obtain H-1B visas, despite meeting all the requirements.

Continue reading to learn more about the current H-1B visa changes, how it affects you as an employer, and how to overcome any challenges that result from these changes. 

What is the H-1B visa program?

The H-1B visa program provides educated foreign professionals with temporary visas to work in a specialty occupation—an occupation that requires highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or equivalent. Specialty occupations include fields such as mathematics, engineering, and technology. The H-1B visa is not only beneficial to employees who can work and reside in the U.S., but also to employers who can source top talent from overseas. This is especially helpful when companies cannot find the abilities and skillset they need from the U.S. workforce.

What changes have been made to H-1B visa policies?

According to a National Foundation for American Policy's analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data, denial rates for H-1B petitions have increased significantly. The new petitions for initial employment have gone from 6% in all of 2015 to 32% in just the first quarter of 2019. This has resulted in many skilled workers being denied entry into the country for reasons outside of their control. Between 2010 and 2015, the denial rate for H-1B petitions never exceeded 8%. But today, the denial rate has become much higher—four times higher to be exact.

As a result of the changes made to the H-1B visa program, such as the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, the Department of Homeland Security is encouraged to limit their approval of H-1B visas to a select few. These select few include only the highest-paid beneficiaries and individuals deemed as the most skilled ones. This leaves many qualified individuals in the dark, denying them the opportunity to bring their talent and skills to a new position in a new country.

What does this mean for employers?

How is the administration getting away with carrying out their new policy changes? One way is by altering and minimizing job requirements in order to ask for fewer qualifications from candidates. In programming positions, for example, immigration is now stating that the position does not require a degree. As a result, they find no need to bring in highly educated and skilled workers from a foreign country with an H-1B visa. With fewer skilled workers to choose from, tech companies are having trouble filling their available positions. Some companies resolve the issue by leaving the U.S.

But as for your company, remember that you have options, and you don't necessarily need to relocate to bring in the best talent you can find.

Here are six tips you can use to tackle the obstacles you may face with the H-1B visa changes: 

1. Be thorough, overly prepared, and document your every move.

When you apply for an initial H-1B visa or a renewal, it's imperative to over prepare. You'll want to do all you can to avoid a request for evidence, as it is expensive and can cause delays in the process. Although, you may not even need to do much since a new policy is in place that allows immigration officials to skip over the request for evidence, and instead, issue an outright denial.

Specific things you should document include:

  • Documents that explicitly state that a certain position requires a degree. This will help you make your case for your desired qualifications as government officials work toward decreasing the number of foreign workers in the U.S.
  • Showcase ads for similar positions in the same area that also require a degree. Overall, your goal is to prove that the position has a required degree, be it in the past or present-day.

2. Establish your company's presence in a new country.

Although it may take more time, moving your company is one workaround that will allow you to bring in candidates on an L1B visa, also known as an intracompany transfer visa. This doesn't mean you have to move your entire organization to a new country. Rather, you will set up a branch of your company abroad, allowing you to bring international employees onboard. After they have worked there for about a year, you can then bring them over to your U.S. team using an L1B visa.

3. Consider hiring employees who can work from overseas.

In the tech industry, much of the work doesn't need to be performed onsite. If your employees have the opportunity to work remotely, why don't you give them the chance to do so? This will allow you to continue to source talent abroad without the fear of being denied an H-1B visa.

Employing workers abroad will also be beneficial to your company as it can boost productivity. Depending on the time difference, you may have the opportunity to get the work done around the clock. When your domestic employees arrive to work at 9 a.m., for example, they can pick up on the work that your overseas team completed overnight.

4. Enhance employee skills by offering training.

If you lack skilled workers, consider training your existing employees on the skills you'd like them to obtain. Because the tech industry is constantly evolving, professionals in this field must adapt to these changes by learning new skills and refining old ones. A quick training course won't replace the years of knowledge that a more experienced tech worker possesses, but it will sure help you build up the skills of your team.

5. Follow the talent.

Be strategic in where you place your offices and aim for prime locations in tech hotspots. This includes major cities and near universities with exceptional tech programs. Once graduation season arrives, you'll have a slew of new (and educated) candidates headed your way.

6. Make your company a place where candidates would like to work.

Make your company attractive to candidates by offering pay or benefits that are unmatched by your competitors. This will help you hire and retain top talent.

 

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