Work Visa Alternatives: Getting the Talent Your Business Needs

The Trump administration has increased scrutiny yet again on visa applications into the United States, this time pushing embassies across the globe to tighten up vetting processes for potential visitors. This comes after other restrictions have already been handed down from the U.S. government, each making it harder for employers to bring talent to North America from specific countries. With news of the heated NAFTA renegotiation approaching, many business leaders are wondering how they are going to find the talent they need. The answer comes in the form of outsourcing key roles, extending your team to keep up with client requirements. But first, let’s look at some limitations of visas, a common choice for firms trying to expand with international talent.

The Challenges of Using Employment Visas

H1-B visas are often used by employers to hire talent outside the U.S. and bring them into the country. These are used for in-demand talent and require some level of rigor to prove candidate qualifications.

For instance, consider a small technology firm that needs to hire someone adept at coding in a specific software language. Upon searching for a developer, the firm realizes that the local market for these workers is incredibly competitive, forcing the business to consider other alternatives. The organization’s executive team knows that the H1-B visa program would allow them to hire a qualified worker from overseas, bringing the individual to the United States to join the team.

However, it isn’t always this easy. According to The New York Times, in recent years there have been significantly more applications than visas awarded. More than 236,000 applications were put in for H1-B visa workers in 2016, and the congressional limit on visas is 85,000. In that case, smaller businesses are often disadvantaged because they have limited budgets and resources to pour into visa applications.

In addition, larger consulting firms will “game the system,” sending thousands of applications into the queue. This statistically makes the larger firms more likely to get some of the coveted documents for their own workers and keeps smaller firms from being competitive in the visa lottery.

Alternatives to Visa-Based Hiring

Many companies now understand that they need expand their teams in other locations, taking into consideration cost, talent availability, and customer centricity. While visas may be valuable tools, employers have developed high-performing teams without the use of visas for quite some time. Here are two powerful talent strategies that can enable employers to remain competitive and ensure long-term performance.

Create competency models to define critical skill sets.

If requested, could you tell your executive team what the largest skills gaps are on your team? The skills gap is costing companies an incredible amount of money, and part of that is because they do not understand what critical skill sets drive the most value for the business.

Getting clear about what competencies are important for your team to have will help you to ensure that you can hire or develop to fill any critical gaps, keeping your business competitive. In addition, by focusing on growing diverse skills in their workers, employers can create an agile workforce capable of handling a variety of problems instead of a group of inflexible specialists.

Use alternative hiring methods to hire talent where they live.

For those employers that still need access to talent outside their locality, hiring workers in their own home country is a good alternative to costly visa applications and waiting processes. The recent Global HR Practices research study showed that the number one driver of expansion was to create a global footprint closer to key target markets. Firms like Papaya Global help employers to connect with local suppliers worldwide, allowing the company to pursue talent in the areas that are most conducive to growth.

These options are not necessarily mutually exclusive: employers can, and should, make use of both options as a way to ensure they are getting the most out of their workforce. By hiring global workers, employers can utilize competency models to ensure that these workers are always at the top of their game in terms of skills. A blended mix of these strategies will help employers to be competitive on a global scale.

By: Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst, Lighthouse Research & Advisory