After a call for H-1B visa reform earlier this year, the talk surrounding the topic has been never-ending. Months later, there are still no concrete law changes or indications of what the future of the H-1B program will look like. This is causing mass confusion and concern for companies and job seekers everywhere who are finding it difficult to plan ahead. As debate on the topic continues in government, H-1B visa uncertainty profoundly impacts American employers, job seekers, and even consumers in a number of ways.
Employers Face a Greater Skills Shortage
U.S. businesses are experiencing direct consequences that H-1B visa uncertainty has on their operations. While the current H-1B program allows for 85,000 visas per year, hundreds of thousands of applications are received and illustrate the overwhelming demand for talent. As the law stands, these visas are good for three years with the potential for extensions. This means there are an estimated 900,000 workers currently on an H-1B visa whose futures with their employers hang in the balance.
This ambiguity is directly making it even harder to locate and recruit talent at a time when multiple industries are already experiencing a skills shortage. Business leaders are cautious about hiring workers that would need an H-1B visa, immediately shrinking their talent pool. Even if your company is not currently employing workers under H-1B visas, other companies (and competitors) are. When these organizations move away from using international talent, they then compete for the same domestic talent you seek and shrink the talent pool further.
As a result, finding the right candidate becomes seemingly impossible and leaves roles open for longer periods of time. This drastically lowers efficiency for any company, making it more difficult to reach business goals. Additionally, a majority of tech executives believe H-1B changes will make talent more costly. This holds true for any industry, as hiring managers will have to offer higher salaries to capture talent that is in higher demand.
Job Seekers’ Lives Become Hectic
Of course, international workers that rely on H-1B visas for employment in America have cause for concern, but H-1B visa uncertainty greatly impacts all U.S. job seekers. When employers face a dramatic skills shortage and leave roles vacant for longer periods, it adds pressure to existing workers in the organization. Responsibilities, tasks, and working hours can increase to help cover for the jobs and neighboring offices left unfilled. When a job seeker accepts a new offer, they may not realize that their new position is plugging a hole left by two or three vacant roles.
On the other hand, an increasing shortage of workers means that job seekers are in greater demand and have the power to draw higher salary offers. However, the job search process is simultaneously becoming more hectic with so many companies vying for talent. A resume or LinkedIn profile that gets attention is a good thing, but today’s job seekers are being bombarded by so many emails, messages, and calls extending irrelevant offers that it’s difficult to recognize the best opportunities within the chaos.
Consumers Lose Product Quality
One group noticeably absent from much of the H-1B visa reform talk is U.S. consumers. While the topic may not apply to the general population on the surface, the ripple effects have already begun. For example, one former Microsoft employee who was denied an H-1B visa left the United States and started their own company, which is now valued at over $7 billion. Not only does that mean lost U.S. jobs, tax revenue, and economic development, but it translates to lost innovation.
When a talented professional uses their skill set elsewhere, it means their ideas leave with them. Their inventions and services take longer to reach consumers in the U.S., if they reach them at all. When organizations experience the inefficiencies of unfilled roles, their productivity in creating the products or services Americans love drops. There are longer lead times on research and development, decreased support and customer service, and a slower release of upgrades. Consumers benefit most when they have as many talented individuals as possible working to provide them their products, and H-1B uncertainty hinders this.
The Effects of H-1B Uncertainty
The topic of H-1B visa reform is a highly sensitive one for a reason. Whether you’re a business leader, job seeker, or average citizen, it effects your quality of life. What makes this subject even more volatile is that we are already seeing these effects before any changes have even been formally adopted. Can you imagine what will happen when the laws do change?