Six Common H-1B Visa Frustrations That Drive You Crazy

h1b, visa, frustrations, regulations
There are 185 different types of visas in the United States. These visas are divided into two different categories: 1)Nonimmigrant visas and 2) Immigrant visas. Nonimmigrant visas are for temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work or studying. Immigrant visas are for people to immigrate to the United States. The most common temporary visa is the H-1B visa.

What Is an H-1B Visa and Its Requirements?

As if the number of visas accepted in the U.S. wasn’t enough, there are two different types of H-1B visas: 1) cap-subject and regular-cap. The cap subject H1-B Visas are not regulated or managed in the same way that regular H1-B visas are. Employers who fall into the following sub-classes don’t have to submit their applications using the same H1-B Visa regular submission process: non-profit for higher education institution, not-for-profit entity, not-for-profit research or government organization, and certain for-profit (i.e. consulting) firms. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t operate in these categories and, therefore, have to submit Visa applications following a standard annual process.

As far as the H-1B visa requirements, each year, employers submit regular cap-subject H1-B visa applications for candidates and employees to work in the U.S. They are submitted to the USCIS by April 1st. Most of us are worried about tax season but companies on top of taxes are in a rush to collect information, request documents and work on their H-1B visas. The USCIS caps the number of visas each year that are accepted in the U.S. Companies must first submit the requirement documentation and information for a visa first. A single box on your application left unchecked can keep your best engineer talent from even being considered to be among the 65,000 approved in 2017. 

Once the your application meets acceptable standards, it then is pushed through to phase two where visas are selected using a lottery. I like to imagine government workers, sitting around their computer using a random number generator to select H-1B visas or better yet, they use one of those lottery number machines like you used to see on TV. Hundreds of thousands of numbered ping pong balls in a large rotating machine. I’d absolutely volunteer to be one of the persons who mixes up the numbers like those hand crank mixers we used to use as kids.

In 2016, USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions from U.S. employers for the 85,000 available H-1B visas. Two hundred thirty-six thousand visas were submitted with only 85,000 visas slots available. This is and was a new record. Keep in mind that for 2017 the USCIS will award 65,000 H-1B Regular Cap visas and 20,000 H-1B Master’s Exemption visas. Your chances in 2016 to be among the approved was 36%. 

Six H-1B Visa Frustrations

It’s easy to see why the H-1B visa process and its requirements are so frustrating for employers. So much can go wrong and so much is out of the control of the business., however, there are five major frustrations that practitioners experience.

  • Too man cooks in the kitchen.  It’s hard enough for the person submitting or managing the visa process to stay up to date. A H-1B visa is the ultimate project management project, but we don’t treat it as such.
  • No communication flow process. Do you receive calls or e-mails from managers, executives, beneficiaries and their family members asking you what is happening on their immigration case? HR leaders are constantly asking for updates to share with hiring managers, employees and other stake holders.
  • Approval for smaller companies is low. As I mentioned earlier last year when submitting requirements and paperwork for your H-1B visa application, you had a 36% chance of getting approved. Larger companies with more cash to spend are submitting a large number of visas applications to increase their chances of approval.  This is commonly called ballot box stuffing in response to the lottery system. Applicants can apply for a visa for someone who is not an employee.
  • Time consuming. Does it take a lot of time to gather information for lawyers to produce your H-1B and other visas? HR leaders spend ridiculous amounts of time waiting, organizing, reacting and following up. How could something so simple be so drawn out and complex?
  • It’s all about the details. The visa approval process uses a lottery system which means that the company submitting the visa request, must first have all the information filled out, complete in its entirety even before the visa is considered to be part of the lottery selection process. Failing to be focused on the details keeps you from even being considered. It’s a lot like having a typo in that resume you just paid $500. Except that large companies on average are spending between $1.7 million to $6 million to employer their top engineering talent.

Bottom line is that the April 1st deadline for H-1B visas is approaching. The question is what’s your plan and are you ready for the deadline?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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