Columbus Investor Visa AttorneyFebruary 8, 2011

This is the first post in a four-part series analyzing the current state of the H-1B visa program. Our H-1B visa lawyers hope the blogs will help interested parties here in Ohio gain a better understanding of the H-1B program as it now stands.

In January of 2011 the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a complete overview and observation of the H-1B visa program. The intent of the review was to locate weaknesses and issues in order to modify and advance the effectiveness of H-1B.

Foreign workers in specialized industries play a vital role within the United States workforce. Due to restrictions within the current H-1B program the productivity and success of large and small companies is being directly impacted. The employment and immigration of specialty workers is also suffering because of the system currently in place.

Throughout the review process the GAO interviewed 34 companies impacted by the H-1B Visa program. Homeland Security creates a cap every year that dictates how many visa petitions are available. Once the cap is reached, no more petitions are granted for that year. Large and small companies incur certain financial and productivity costs as a result of the current program. The review concluded that the magnitude of the costs and overall impact varies depending on the size and age of each company.

All of the companies must pay designated Homeland Security filing fees in addition to any legal fees that accumulate during the H1-B Visa petition process. The GAO noted that for 26 of the interviewed firms the combined total of fees per petition ranged from $2,320 to $7,500.

Even following the petition process and paying the necessary fees does not guarantee a company its Visa petition will be granted. And companies experience significant financial losses due to rejected visa petitions. In addition to the filing and legal fees, they must also pay the administrative costs associated with filing H-1B Visa petitions. There is no way for the companies to know which petitions will be granted. As a result, the ability to plan projects as well as designate work is impacted significantly. The process of finding alternate recruitment methods in addition to hiring other employees on short notice increases the financial burden. In order to find qualified employees and meet specific deadlines the companies are forced to accumulate additional costs associated with higher salaries and a more demanding workforce.

One of the intents of the H-1B visa program review was to document the stark contrast between how the current state of the program impacts small versus large companies. The GAO learned that larger companies have the financial and legal means to absorb the costs associated with filing H-1B Visa petitions. These companies retain experienced legal teams that are familiar with navigating the immigration system in order to obtain the desired workers whether or not the original H1-B petitions are denied.

But while smaller, specialty companies rely on H-1B petitions being granted, they do not have the resources or financial means to challenge the decisions made by Homeland Security. The yearly cap has a major impact on small businesses that are not able to challenge the system and find alternate routes to obtain the desired employees. Paying the filing fees and legal fees is a financial burden even when the petition is granted, but when it is denied the long term effects are difficult to overcome. The implications of a long hiring process, missing project goals, finding alternate employees, and performing work quickly in order to meet professional obligations creates significant and detrimental losses for small companies.

Additional costs are also accumulated when companies have to petition for H-1B Visas to be renewed. Consistency within the workforce is important, so companies often desire to retain foreign workers for extended periods of time. Eventually, some companies will seek permanent residence in the United States for foreign employees. The GAO’s review estimates that the total cost of filing for an H-1B petition, renewing the petition, and seeking permanent residence is approximately $16,000 for one foreign worker. The structure of the program makes it challenging for companies to obtain and retain quality foreign workers.

The intent of the GAO’s review of the current H-1B program was to document and highlight the important issues that exist within the program. H-1B petitions play a vital role in the national workforce and economy. Modifying and amending the system is critical in order to support the immigration of foreign workers who increase the strength and productivity of specialty companies in the United States. Homeland Security must work towards building an efficient system that meets the needs of the U.S. companies as well as the foreign workers.

For more information, speak to a H-1B visa lawyer today.