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Few industries rely on H-1B visas as much as the tech industry does, and leaders have been keeping a close eye on proposed changes to the H-1B system since the current administration announced its intention to change the program. While new rules have not yet been implemented, tech leaders need to be aware of the potential downsides for larger tech firms.

Proposed Changes to H-1B Visas

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) intention is to, “revise the definition of specialty occupations to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B program, and revise the definition of employment and employer-employee relationship to better protect U.S. workers and wages. In addition, DHS will propose additional requirements designed to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders.”

The key areas employers need to be aware of are the definition of are the criteria for “best and brightest.”  Rhetoric around the proposed rules has focused heavily on “best and brightest” with proponents stating that they only want the “best” and the “brightest” immigrant workers to be able to leverage H-1B visas.  According to industry insiders, the purpose of the H-1B is not to define “best and brightest” at all, and employers looking for upper echelon talent have the O-1 Visa to fall back on.

The O-1 visa is defined as, “a nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics… and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.”

There has been a lack of clarity in how to reconcile this difference if “best and brightest” is to be lumped into the H1-B.  This is something that employers and their legal departments must get a handle on if they rely on international workers in any capacity, but most especially if they rely on them in high volume.

How H-1B Changes Could Impact Tech Employers

Ultimately, if the new rules take hold, employers will likely not be able to leverage the H-1B for staffing up complex projects in the tech space. Currently, large employers may hire dozens, if not hundreds of foreign professionals under the H-1B umbrella.  Going forward, under the new rules, they would have to establish one-to-one relationships with those employees in order to bring them to the US, a parameter that is simply impossible for major employers the size of Google or Facebook.

According to the current presidential administration, the new rules are designed to protect American workers and would promote a “hire American first” agenda. While this is good for American tech pros, it will likely exacerbate the tech skill gaps we are currently experiencing. The tech space grows exponentially every year, and the US talent pool simply cannot keep pace. While some employers do certainly misuse H-1Bs as a means of hiring cheaper talent, many more companies lean on the process to access skills they struggle to find in their own backyards.

Are You Hiring Top Tech Talent?

If your firm is seeking high-level tech talent, it’s time to talk to the award-winning recruiting team at Talon. Contact us today to learn about our proven track record of success and to discover the ways we can help you achieve your tech recruiting goals, without relying on increasingly complex visa system.

 

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