Some folks predict the volume of H-1B visas petitions employers file starting April 1 will be lighter than last year. But that's not because demand is waning for foreign tech talent. Rather, companies are being more selective in the kind of talent they're seeking, given the odds aren't good they'll have their visa applications approved.At least that's what Bob Meltzer thinks. The volume of H-1B visa petitions filed last year "knocked the wind out of people," says Meltzer, CEO of VisaNow, which provides online services to help employers prepare immigration applications.
And with 133,000 H-1B visa petitions filed in two days to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
last April, there was only a 50-50 chance an employer's application would be approved for one of the 65,000 slots available. The immigration agency stopped accepting H-1B applications for temporary foreign workers after only two days.
"The odds weren't great," even though it cost employers a few thousand dollars in processing and legal fees for each petition, Meltzer says. While the U.S. returns the $2,300 government fee for each rejected application, employers are still stuck paying immigration attorneys for the work they've done in the petition process, he says
"It's costly and a lot of work." This year, Meltzer expects companies will "file as few petitions as possible," in hopes they'll be able to hire their most highly sought-after foreign talent while saving time and costs.
Still, for companies denied H-1B visa workers, there are alternative visas to consider for specialized temporary, foreign tech talent, says Meltzer.
Here are descriptions from VisaNow about a few options to H-1B visas:
TN Category Visa: Based on the North American Free Trade Agreement, this visa is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens coming to the United States to perform professional activities. The TN visa has a one-year term, but can be renewed indefinitely. There is no cap on the number of TN visas allotted.
L Category Visa: Similar to the H-1B, the L-1 visa allows companies to hire foreign employees on a temporary basis with the ability to provide permanent residency. The L-1 visa is available if a company is affiliated with a foreign operation, in which a foreign national is coming to the United States for a managerial or executive level position. To be eligible, workers must have worked for the foreign company for at least one of the last three years.
O Category Visa: Visas in this category are used for business and science professionals that exhibit extraordinary ability. The initial visa is valid for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely for up to one year each time it is renewed.
E Category Visa: Created for foreign workers from countries that signed the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation (FCN) with the United States. The E-2 visa is available to nationals of FCN treaty countries that have made a significant investment within the United States. The E-3 visa is specifically for Australians who intend on working in the United States, temporarily in a specialty occupation. E category visas are valid for two years and can be renewed indefinitely.
Meltzer says the "O" category is for individuals with some kind of "outstanding" ability, often high-profile people who "get a lot of press." In the tech world, a Bill Gates-type might be a candidate for an O visa if foreign-born and wanting to work in the United States.
Speaking of Bill, Meltzer doubts Congress will be moved by Gates' Congressional testimony next week, or any other tech industry captain lobbying for legislation to raise the H-1B visa cap.
"After the presidential elections you'll see the H-1B issue come back, but not till then," Meltzer predicts.
What are your predictions?