Ep 139 – Navigating Immigration: How to Hire Current Visa Holders

Another sign of the strong economy and tight labor market is that the jobless rate ticked down to 3.8% in May – a tie with the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. Since then, the only other time unemployment was this low was in April 2000. It’s because of the tight labor market, the increased need for STEM workers, and the limited number of H1-B visas available each year that companies are getting extremely creative and aggressive in their hiring of technical talent. Companies are increasingly looking towards recruiting current visa holders to their organization. How does that work? Well, that’s exactly what we are going to be discussing today.

Episode 139: Navigating Immigration: How to Hire Current Visa Holders with Jason Finkelman (@FinkelmanLaw)

Returning to the Workology Podcast is Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney sharing insights into the requirements and guidelines we will face when hiring current visa holders to positions within our organization. H-1B visas are awarded by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of a visa lottery process. Every year in April employers submit H-1B applications for technical candidates as part of the visa lottery process. In 2018, the USCIS had 85,000 numerical cap receiving over 190,098 H-1B applications. The process is extremely competitive and often costly which is why Jason says that employers are turning to recruiting and hiring current H-1B visa holders.

Understanding the H-1B Visa Transfer Process for Employers

The visa transfer process for employers is relatively easy, however, it does require following an established process in order for your new hire to start work. Jason says, in most cases, there are two steps in order to hire these highly skilled candidates:

  • Employers must file prevailing wage paperwork and a labor condition application, normally taking 7-10 days.
  • DOL will certify this condition and file an H-1B petition filing with US CIS. Fees depend on size of employer. For companies with 25 employees or more, fees are $2,400 and up, not including legal costs.

Jason says the new employee can begin working almost immediately, making recruiting and hiring active visa holders more appealing than submitting candidates to the lottery process. One important point of note is that H-1B holders are only allowed to be approved and authorized to work in the U.S. for six years, making the hiring of these highly skilled technical workers a short-term staffing and human capital solution.

The tech industry strongly supports the visa, arguing that it enables companies to hire talent not available domestically, and pushes for increases in the number issued.

71 percent of tech employees are foreign-born #techtalent #startup Click To Tweet

Extreme value is placed on the H-1B visa in Silicon Valley. San Jose’s Mercury News reports that 71 percent of tech employees are foreign-born. The lottery competition is intense and many large companies submit hundreds or thousands of candidates increasing the likelihood more of their candidates will be selected. Think of it just like playing the Powerball jackpot with the more you play, the more likely you’ll win.

What is the Future of Workplace Immigration and Visa Hiring?

Where does Jason see the future of U.S. immigration going? One thing is for sure, there are new changes on the horizon.

Jason provides such good insights that are easy to understand, which is important in the ever-changing world of U.S. immigration. I appreciate Jason sharing his knowledge. Economists still think the labor market can tighten even further which means that finding top talent, especially technical talent, will be a challenge for your organization into this year and beyond.

Connect with Jason Finkelman.


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*A special thank you to my production team at Total Picture Radio.

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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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