Leadership changes at an organization are often accompanied by angst, concern, excitement and hope. The same holds true of government. Changes being implemented or considered by our new government are causing not just a multitude of emotions but also challenges.
Although some changes being considered will require a wait and see approach such as the possible repeal and replace of ACA, others do not afford an approach. One significant change applies to the H-1B visa program. While specifics are still to be determined, just yesterday, the president called for the Department of Homeland Security to review the way in which H-1Bs are awarded and to submit a list of administrative and legislative reforms to curb abuse in the H-1B system. This request, along with the recent announcement by the US Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) calling for additional scrutiny on staffing firms that use a high ration of H1Bs and/or those that petition for H1Bs that work offsite at another company or organizations location require an organization to understand and prepare for any potential risk it or it’s staffing partners may encounter.
Although these pending changes would not be implemented immediately they do require a company be prepared. One change being considered would require an organization to apply for visas each year even if there are still years remaining on a visa holder’s current application. This big change from the current process could have a huge effect on the number of petitions that are available. The cap for H-1B petitions is already met quickly once the window opens; adding this new pool to the equation means not only do we hit the cap even faster, but many more individuals will not get an H-1B — and many more positions go unfilled. Some of these could be currently engaged on a critical project at your organization.
With so much yet unclear, what can a CW program manager do to be prepared? Although you likely already track which candidates are on an H-1B visa or require sponsorship, are you confident that you know all of them? Do you know how many years of work authorization they have remaining? It is critical to understand what percentage of your workforce is visa dependent, and, more important, what work they are completing for your organization.
It is also important to understand that this information cannot and should not be used to discriminate in any way, including potentially asking for the individual to be replaced. Rather, it should be used to identify any effects that the organization may face if the pending changes are implemented.
Staffing partners. Require your staffing partners provide you with a list of all their employees currently working for your company that require sponsorship, along with the time remaining on their current application. A program manager is usually only aware of the time remaining when they are informed that the employee needs to return to their home country to get their visa stamped and reauthorized, which could be too late.
Subcontractors. If your program allows for subcontracting, do you know if any of their employees are visa holders? If you allow for more than one level deep, this could be a little more time consuming and complicated but well worth the effort. These relationships could be even more critical to your program and the work being done, so understanding who they are, which resources are theirs and the potential impact to the work being done is critical.
CW program managers also need to remain educated on these pending changes and others being considered. For example, if the Trump administration re-evaluates the North America Free Trade Agreement, this could affect any current Canadian TN Visa holders’ status. Another classification of visas being revisited is the H-4, which provides work authorization for spouses and dependents of H-1B visa holders. These changes will affect organizations as to who is doing the work and even more important, if they are implemented, how will the work continue to be done.
Understanding, the potential impact these changes could have on your program and the organization is imperative. Having a plan in place will show the value you and the program bring to the company.