H-1B: The Recession's Impact

By John Hazard  |  Print this article Print

Everyone knows that it's difficult to find qualified talent these days. And political considerations have made it even harder to hire H-1B employees, putting small IT solution providers at a disadvantage.

During the recession, the weak demand for labor eased tension on the H-1B system and the debate over the quota was silenced. This year, the 65,000 visas were available until late January, nine months into the application period. Today, the debate focuses on the process, which critics say is slow, expensive and impractical. And the protests come mostly from smaller businesses, which argue that the system is disproportionately difficult for those businesses such as VARs and service providers.

It's not likely to get better any time soon, said Leslie K. L. Thiele, an immigration attorney and partner at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, Albany, NY.

"Congress hates the H-1B," Thiele said. "They like to think it is used by Indian computer programmers to come over here and undercut the wages of U.S. workers. Congress doesn’t believe there aren’t enough U.S. workers to do these jobs and so they penalize the employers who use them... They're unlikely to do anything to make the process easier or manageble for anyone, let alone small businesses."

The special difficulty the H-1B system presents for small business, said Thiele and others who have experience with the process, is a construct of three factors: the cost of the application process, the unrealistic standards to which the USCIS holds business owners and the slow, laborious approval.