Time to Think About H-1B Work Visas
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) opens its doors to a rush of H-1B work visa petitions. The H-1B visa classification is designed for foreign workers who will fill a professional occupation that requires at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent. With a current annual limit of 65,000 H-1B spots for foreign nationals with bachelor's degrees and an additional 20,000 for those holding U.S. master's degrees, the H-1B is a highly valuable commodity. Driven largely by the tech sector and a recovering economy, all available H-1B spots will likely be scooped up within days of April 1, when USCIS will start accepting petitions. In 2013, USCIS was able to accept petitions for only seven days.
The rush for H-1B visas is driven largely by the tech sector, which is why some of the biggest proponents of immigration reform include heavy-hitters like Microsoft, eBay, IBM and Google. Marc Zuckerberg and Mark Benioff, of Facebook and Salesforce.com, respectively, have also been quite vocal in their advocacy for easing the restrictions U.S. companies face in attracting and keeping non-U.S. talent. Recently, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and more than 100 technology firm executives signed off on a letter to Congress, making a case for immigration reform as a means to attract more high-skilled workers and boost the global economy.
Firms based in the U.S. clearly possess the upper hand in the digital global economy. Tools created by U.S. firms, like the iOS, Android and Windows platforms, help to empower individual and corporations, shaping the way we live. Leading technologies, developed by bright, entrepreneurial minds are the engines of U.S. productivity. But U.S. companies cannot rely solely on U.S.-born talent. Two of every five companies on the Fortune 500 index were founded by immigrants; and many of the innovations that drove the other 60 percent of companies’success were the brainchildren of non-American innovators.
The knowledge economy of the U.S. is largely supported by foreign immigrants. According to the National Science Foundation, 25 percent of the total tech workforce is made up of U.S. immigrants. Furthermore, 42 percent of doctoral engineering and science workers as well as 34 percent of master’s degrees holders in the U.S. are foreigners. The digital age is here, and technology and engineering are driving today’s global economy, regardless of the firm's industry.
Although he had no specifics in his State of the Union address, President Obama painted some broad strokes about the benefits of foreign talent enriching the U.S. economy: “Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent, contribute to our culture — they make the U.S. a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody."
Tech companies are currently driving the U.S. economy and they need H-1B visas in order to drive innovation. If your company is looking to recruit or retain non-U.S. talent, take a look at any of your current -- or potential future -- employees who are present in the U.S. under any of the following categories:
• F-1 student visas;
• J-1 exchange visitor visas;
• TN/E-3 visas for Canadian/Mexican/Australian nationals;
• L-2/H-4 dependent visas; or
• E-1/E-2 treaty visas.
Prospective professional employees residing overseas will also require visa sponsorship in order to work for a U.S. company. The H-1B visa is the most common vehicle to achieve this.
The improved economy has resulted in more employers reporting increased hiring of non-U.S. talent for hard-to-fill professional positions. In April 2013, the H-1B cap was met in only seven days (from April 1, 2013 through April 7, 2013). During this period, the USCIS received over 120,000 petitions competing for the limited 85,000 total H-1B spots. The USCIS was required by law to hold a lottery to randomly select the petitions it would accept for adjudication. The government then rejected those H-1B applications that were not selected under the lottery process or those that were received after April 7, 2013.
If you would like to sponsor a worker for an H-1B petition, you must act quickly and contact experienced business immigration counsel in advance of the April 1, 2014 deadline. The prerequisite steps to filing an H-1B petition may take three to four weeks, so time is crucial -- starting sooner adds to the likelihood of success.