There are few topics receiving as much media attention as H-1B visa laws in IT. This year, the number of applications declined for the second year in a row, with 190,098 people applying for the annual allotment of just 85,000 visas. With tightening laws and policy changes, a vast cloud of uncertainty hangs over not just those who currently utilize H-1B talent, but everyone hiring in IT. So, what are these changes and what do they mean for the future of IT talent recruitment?
A new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services memorandum released on July 13th is just one of the most recent policy changes to cause concern over the future of H-1B visas. The policy now allows officers to deny an H-1B application without having to issue a request for evidence (RFE) or a notice to deny. Additionally, a June 26th policy memorandum from the same office is set to increase the number of individuals required to appear in front of an immigration judge.
While these latest policy updates have wide-ranging effects, they will undoubtedly increase the difficulty of H-1B visa acquisition by eligible applicants. Even more concerning, an applicant may end up in deportation proceedings without the opportunity to present evidence for why they should continue working in the U.S. or even start working in the country for the first time. Even a simple administrative error could be enough to deny an application without the chance for correction. Simply put, hiring managers will have more and more trouble maintaining H-1B staff as policies continue to tighten.
Along with changing H-1B laws, H-4 visas have come under fire. These visas allow the spouse or dependent of an H-1B holder to work in the United States. Proponents of limiting or doing away with H-4 visas have become more vocal in the past several months, despite various tech trade groups urging against changing the policy that currently allows for nearly 40,000 spouses and dependents per year. Advocates in favor of decreasing or removing H-4 visas believe that if spouses are not allowed to work in the U.S., then valid H-1B holders may have less incentive or ability to stay in the country. Spouses or dependents on H-4 visas would be resigned to sit unemployed or stay abroad to continue furthering their career, further complicating the IT hiring picture.
While the heightened scrutiny of H-1B applications makes it more difficult for those outside the U.S. to work here, the main intent behind many of these law changes is to curtail abuse of the system and to prioritize American workers for open positions. However, hiring managers in IT cannot rely on the government to catch every individual who is looking to use the H-1B system as a loophole, nor police their hiring processes.
Among the growing forms of immigration abuse are the fake interviews and the “bait and switch”; one individual appears for an interview, but a different person shows up for work. Similarly, video interviews may have coaches feeding answers to candidates just off the screen or have candidates lip sync as the coach answers an interviewer’s questions off camera. Given this ever-present and ever-growing deception, it’s imperative that any organization’s screening process is airtight. Resumes must be reviewed carefully, references must be contacted and vetted, and even minor red flags or inconsistencies must be investigated.
While diligent and thorough screening will help, the fact remains that a heavy or over-reliance on H-1B or H-4 talent going forward will make hiring in IT more difficult. Studies show a majority of tech executives believe H-1B changes will increase the cost of talent, and that could greatly affect IT salaries in your local market. Some companies will even consider offshoring as an alternative, but that too can become a complicated legal, logistical, and financial nightmare.
Ultimately, domestic hiring becomes even more important during these volatile times. Recruiting strategies will need to change and adapt as companies look to position and brand themselves differently to attract a smaller pool of tech talent. Some companies may provide a better work-life balance in the form of remote work or flexible work hours or look to introduce new or better benefits. Others may look to cross train current employees into high-profile roles left vacant. Overall, the demand for candidates who can be hired without sponsorship is growing, all while these tech pros are gravitating to companies that have adapted to the gig economy.
While the rapid changes in U.S. H-1B visa laws in IT can wear down even the most seasoned hiring manager, it’s important to stay current on what’s happening. Here at Select Resources, we partner with a leading immigration company allowing us to successfully navigate the pitfalls of the changing H-1B landscape. It’s one of the many things that continually allow us to provide top-notch staffing solutions to our clients.