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Tech Hiring: Have You Considered H1B Candidates?

The number of job openings is currently at a 14-year high in the US with nearly five million job openings. In 2014, 129,600 tech jobs were added for a total of 6.5 million tech workers, representing the fourth consecutive year of growth in tech jobs. This has created a shortage of available talent for highly skilled technical workers. Organizations are now being forced to turn to non-traditional resources for hiring needs, including intern and apprentice programs and online freelance sites, just to name a few. If your needs require an experienced, full-time and (hopefully) longer-term resource, the options are more limited - and the competitive landscape for that talent is significantly more fierce. If this is where you find yourself, one possibility to consider is leveraging the H1B visa program.

(Before I go on, let me first acknowledge the debate that continues to rage about the merits of the program. If you aren’t familiar, Dice.com did a special report linked here that I highly recommend.)

So why should you consider hiring from the H1B labor pool?

Quite simply, the H1B program provides employers access to a vast number of highly-educated workers, with some of the most in-demand skillsets. Just how big is that talent pool? From the Dice article linked above, the number of H1B visas issued over the six-year period ending in 2012 was nearly 800,000. Of those, estimates are that approximately 500,000 H1B visa holders work in IT. With just over 2.5 million total IT workers in the US, this means that H1B visa holders make-up nearly 20% of the available workforce! If that isn’t compelling enough for you, here are a few other things to consider:

  • H1B workers require sponsorship, which can be a complicated process for the uninitiated (more on that later). For that reason, many companies choose not to even consider these workers in their hiring plans – thus reducing overall competition for these highly-skilled individuals.
  • Many workers applying for H1B visas are interested in permanent residency or citizenship within the US companies who assist in this process. These companies often benefit through increased loyalty and longer tenures from these hires.

In my role as Immigration Manager at MATRIX, I have witnessed firsthand that the demand for highly skilled H1B employees has consistently increased over the last few years. The benefits of successful H1B sponsorship are significant, but as mentioned above, the process of identifying and obtaining an H1B visa can have several risks if not handled correctly.

If you are considering H1B visa sponsorship to fulfill your job openings, here are a few things to keep in mind:

H1B candidates require a sponsoring employer. They cannot be hired directly unless they are sponsored.

  • There is a limited number of H1B visas issued each calendar year.
  • There are no guarantees of being awarded an H1B visa and legal fees and filings are not refundable.
  • The person whom you are considering for sponsorship can have multiple potential sponsors. They are under no legal obligation to accept your offer, even if your visa application is approved.

Time and cost.

  • Obtaining a new H1B visa is done seven months in advance of the employee being able to begin working on their H1B visa.
  • The average time to initiate the H1B visa transfer with premium processing is three to five weeks and does not account for a notice period.
  • Costs vary between $5,000 to $6,000 per H1B visa.

Limited time allowed – Six years is the maximum allowed for a H1B.

  • H1B visas are issued in two-three year increments. This time can only be extended if the H1B employee has gone through PERM/Green card process with PERM Labor certification and an approved I-140.

Cultural and communication barriers.

  • Adapting to the US business environment can prove to be very challenging for some H1B candidates. In most cases, English is a second or third language.

To sum it all up, hiring an H1B employee can be a great solution to your IT hiring woes - but can also be very difficult to navigate on your own. If you’ve done the research, and the task just seems too daunting, you might consider getting outside help. An immigration lawyer is a good option, or you could partner with a company like MATRIX who is intimately familiar with the process, and who has experienced resources in place to help deliver the talent you need.

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