abuses to the H-1B program conducted
by outsourcing firms, demonstrating the
need for administrative and legislative
reform to this important program,” says
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the
Consumer Technology Association, a trade
group based in Arlington, Va.
“For meaningful reforms to occur,
Congress would need to act ... . The
program is a critical tool for U.S.
companies to hire talent that they cannot
find elsewhere. We hope that Congress will
be able to advance legislation to end abuse
Simply capping the number of H-1B
visas is counterproductive, Shapiro says.
Citing a recent survey by the CTA,
Shapiro points out that 86 percent of tech
employers say they need more employees
with technical skills. With H-1B visas
harder to get, many tech companies feel
they must rely more on part-time contract
workers or even move their operations
overseas, he says.
Shapiro notes that because H-1B visas
are granted through a lottery, an artificially
low cap on visas are awarded based on
luck and not merit, preventing American
companies from filling technical roles.
The visa cap has already sent many U.S.
companies overseas and costs the nation
about 500,000 jobs each year. Increasing
the number of available H-1B visas each
year would be an economic win for the U.S.
1.83 additional jobs for American workers,
according to the CTA.
“Although the administration has
taken some measures to address the
problem, there are still many unanswered
questions,” Shapiro says. “For meaningful
reforms to occur, Congress would need
to act. We hope that Congress will be able
to advance legislation to end abuse of the
H-1B system and improve its efficiency for
the companies that use it for its intended
The Path to Permanent Residency
The shortage of H-1B visas also is
prompting many companies to accelerate
the usual process of moving foreign-born employees up the ladder toward
citizenship, experts say.
Dunn notes that companies are
increasingly doing more to help foreign
employees with a visa get a green card,
which grants permanent residency. Among
other things, these efforts can go a long
way to strengthening employee loyalty, he
“They want to know the company is
willing to invest [in them],” he says.
Most employers that hire foreign
workers have have not taken any drastic
steps, immigration lawyers and other
“A lot of companies are still in reaction
mode,” says Jay Jamrog, a co-founder
and senior vice president for research at
the Seattle-based Institute for Corporate
Productivity. At the very least, he explains,
more of them are investing in long-term
workforce planning, matching projected
long-range needs with an analysis of the
risks that immigration limits will continue
to pinch their supply of overseas workers.
Jamrog urges employers to think
of immigration challenges in the larger
framework of understanding the
company’s “talent risk.”
“Do a systematic analysis,” he says.
Among companies that are
hurrying to keep the talent flowing,
many are tweaking their use of the
immigration process to bring in
workers without using H-1B visas,
Burke notes. One popular alternative
is the L-1 visa, which is intended for
employees being transferred to the
U.S. from an overseas office.
Another alternative is the O visa,
Burke says. But the bar is high for
such visas, he says, noting that they’re
“intended for people of real talent or
renown,” such as celebrated performers
Yet another alternative, also limited in
use, is the TN—or NAFTA Professional—
visa for workers from Canada and
Still, none of these options are
likely to ease employer concerns over
the aforementioned Trump executive
Although tech firms have been
the most prominent critics of the new
restrictions on H-1B visas, “It’s hurting
businesses across the board,” Jamrog
says, including manufacturing and
The angry political talk isn’t helping,
either, he says.
“Just the rhetoric alone is scaring
people” who might other wise bring their
talents and training to a U.S. employer,
Burke agrees. “The skills gap is real,”
he says, and employers often have no
choice but to hire foreign talent.
Many business leaders argue that
U.S. immigration policy needs a thorough
overhaul to ensure a steady flow of skilled
immigrants, from grad students here
on student visas to junior scientists and
engineers at research centers.
“Our global competitors understand
that attracting top talent from around the
world is vital to a country’s economic
success, and many have already re-written
their immigration policies accordingly,”
Yager told Congress via a letter presented
during the last attempt at comprehensive
immigration reform in 2003. “We urge
Congress not to miss this opportunity to
level the playing field for U.S. employers.
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Finding Their Way Cover Story