The Plight of the H1-B Employee

Jun 27, 2001

Over the last several years, the shortage of qualified IT workers became so great that many companies had to look beyond the traditional recruiting grounds to find skilled workers. Many companies turned to foreign workers, who are often well-educated and highly skilled but lack opportunity in their homeland. These companies looked to the H1-B visa as their answer to recruiting challenges. As more and more companies caught on to this practice, the demand for H1-B Visas shot through the roof, while the supply, which Congress sets, remained the same. The U.S. economy was booming and many major corporations were desperate for skilled talent, while foreign countries remained filled with qualified workers. The bottleneck soon became the number of visas authorized by the government and the time it took to actually process the visa requests. Congress last year finally agreed to increase the number of H1-B Visas by 70% for fiscal year 2001. What Congress didn’t foresee is the downturn in the economy, which made this increase too little too late. Now, here we are in June 2001 and corporate layoffs are as common as dot-com IPOs were last year. According to an article in the July issue of eCompany, we are now seeing many workers effected by layoffs, but for employees who are on an H1-B Visa, it not only means that they are losing their jobs, but that they also must leave the country immediately. Each visa is tied to a specific employer, and if that employee loses his or her job through a layoff, then the INS considers them “out of status,” and they must leave the country. What we are seeing now is that out-of-status or soon-to-be-out-of-status H1-B workers are scrambling to find new jobs in order to stay in the United States. These layoffs and impending deportations are another by product of a weaker US economy. On the bright side, it can mean for a recruiting coup for companies that are willing to step up to the plate and hire these workers. Last year, even H1-B candidates were shopping around for opportunities that paid the highest dollar and offered pre-IPO stock options. Like many U.S. citizens, they now realize that pre-IPO stock options are not always a ticket to riches and that the highest paying job may not be their best opportunity. In short, H1-B workers may be the most realistic candidates available today. They have seen what life is like in a strong economy and are now getting a lesson on what life is like when the chips are down. I think what you will find in H1-B workers today are candidates that have very realistic expectations and are looking for long-term opportunities rather than the get-rich-quick jobs of the late 1990s. Another interesting bit of information, the U.S. is only producing about 23,000 computer science graduates in 2001, and these numbers don’t look to be getting better in the near future. As many economic experts have been saying, the economy has already hit the bottom and is on the rebound. We may not see this rebound happening today or tomorrow, but it is happening. When the economy does pick up steam again, the demand for skilled IT workers will again increase. Where will U.S. companies turn when this happens again? Looking at the number of graduates coming out of college this year, it’s clear the demand will far exceed the supply. This is another reason to look at H1-B workers now and keep them here in the U.S., so your company is not left out in the cold when it becomes time to crank up the recruitment function again. H1-B visas are valid for up to six years, which can give your company ample time to decide if an H1-B employee is someone whom your company wants to sponsor for a green card. If you really think about it, think about how much loyalty you will create with an employee for whom you first sponsor their H1-B visa and then down the road sponsor a green card. Your company could truly be creating the American dream for an employee, while at the same time filling a critical need within your company. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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