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IT hosting and on-demand infrastructure provider SingleHop is growing fast. In the last five years the small company in Chicago has increased revenue 4,000 percent.

SingleHop’s core business of hosted applications and on-demand infrastructure services are in hot demand as businesses of all kinds embrace managed services and hosted applications in the cloud. SingleHop’s employees are in equal demand as the company adds more customers and hosts more applications for existing companies. The problem is there aren’t enough of them and SingleHop has struggled to find IT pros with the significant technical experience to tackle some of the unique issues its engineers face when hosting business-critical applications of all shapes, sizes and types.

In March, SingleHop found one of those engineers with a unique background and started the process to hire him. It needed him in the Chicago office and responding to client calls in two to three weeks, maximum, said Dan Salcedo, SingleHop’s director of communications. No problem for SingleHop or the employee, but a major problem for United States Customs and Immigration Service, which was required to approve the employee’s hire and move to the U.S. under an H-1B work-permit visa. The average time required to gain approval and hire an employee under an H-1B visa: three to six months; three to six months longer than SingleHop could afford.

“That is completely impractical for the technology industry,” Salcedo said. Unlike other industries, the pace of development and unique situation required by almost every application technology companies like SingleHop manage, requires fast, flexible hiring periods. Something the H-1B process doesn’t afford. “You’re talking about several months, at least, where that employee is not working and we’re not able to do some sort of business. That’s a business limitation.”

The downtime might be manageable at a larger company, but at SingleHop, with 50 employees and $23 million in annual revenue, every employee and every customer engagament impacts the bottom line. The inability to hire H-1B employees in a timely and cost-effective manner is strangling business opportunity.

Just two years ago the debate over H-1B visas focused on the number (65,000 annually), which was far too few to meet the demand. From fiscal year 2007 to fiscal 2009, the entire allotment was used on the opening day for applications (April 1, six months before the start of the Federal fiscal year). Companies of all shapes and sizes were forced to chance their H-1B visa hires on a lottery system with an estimated one-in-three chance of success. Nearly all protested the limitation.