Both companies and countries are competing for top talent across the world. Today, there is no shortage of articles and conversations on the priority level and concern about attracting, developing, engaging and retaining highly valuable talent.
When the "right" talent is not available within a country for a specific role, then the need to look outside the country for talent is critical. Back in March, Richard Burke, President and CEO, of Envoy Global, an immigration and workforce mobility platform that helps employers through the process of hiring foreign talent, stated, "We are facing a critical shortage of skilled labor in America. According to the Labor Department's latest jobs report, we're in the strongest labor market in decades. But that has left the country with a severe shortage of skilled workers." Additionally, in a recent “Immigration Trends Report" from Envoy, employers indicated that they are boosting efforts to hire foreign national talent to get work completed.
Per Think Immigration, when it comes to high-skilled immigration, U.S. employers have for years struggled with a ridiculously low and rigid cap on the number of H-1B visas that are available each year, massive backlogs in permanent visas, and outdated procedures and requirements that place onerous burdens on employers can frustrate those seeking to build a permanent life in America. For fiscal year 2019, there will only be 85,000 H-1B visas available. According to this article, even if the number of these visas tripled, supply still would not meet demand. This is putting STEM companies (and others) in an exceedingly challenging talent environment that is going to get even more challenging. While most agree that immigration reform is needed, many are concerned we are on track for serious challenges that could have companies looking to relocate their business to an environment that is more talent acquisition friendly.
In another article titled, "An immigration bill you've never heard of will solve U.S.'s labor shortage," Burke actually explains details related to the I-Squared Act, a proposal that could possibly solve things, but that seems to have gotten lost in the immigration debate. The act would increase the H-1B allotment up to a cap of 195,000. The I-Squared bill would allow for up to 110,000 additional H-1B visas to be available if vacancies remained after the initial visa cap was met. One of the most impactful elements is that it would continue providing work authorization visas for spouses of H-1B visa holders, greatly improving quality of life for workers and their families, and harnessing the real power of H-1B visas. Additionally, I-Squared would remove arbitrary per-country limits for employment-based green cards and adjust caps for family-based green cards, easing a major source of uncertainty for high-skilled foreign national workers and their families. It would raise the minimum annual salary from $60,000 to $100,000 and it would require that it is not replacing any American worker. Burke suggests that this bill needs to be given some serious consideration by Congress.
As a member of TechServe Alliance, Morgan has focused on the issue of H-1B availability. “We first of all have a problem with the number of visas that are even currently allowed,” he said. In fiscal 2017, there were 236,000 H-1B visas available, which will dwindle to 85,000 for fiscal 2019. Even if the number of these visas currently allowed tripled, supply still would not meet demand, Morgan said. He added that STEM education is important to improve the supply of highly educated talent over time, but the U.S. still needs a short-term fix to help with demand, which he said is only going to continue increasing.