SMBs Can't Afford to Take Chance on H-1B Lottery


We blogged recently about how a relative lack of bureaucracy allows many SMBs to be more nimble than their larger counterparts. And it's no secret that SMBs are becoming more comfortable with a global economy, whether that means outsourcing non-core tasks or supplementing U.S. workforces with employees from other countries.


Employing the latter strategy, however, means SMBs may lose some of that important agility. As outlined in a recent Tennesean.com article, applying for an H-1B visa, which allows companies to employ skilled foreign workers, is a complicated process -- one that becomes even more complicated and costly if an SMB's application is unsuccessful.


Lots of businesses of all sizes were unsuccessful this year. The U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Service stopped taking applications on April 2, one day after filing began, when it was flooded with more than 120,000 requests for the 65,000 available H-1B slots.


An immigration attorney interviewed in the article calls the annual lottery for the visas "totally ludicrous," noting, ""You tell me how many businesses, particularly small businesses, can make plans around a lottery."


The owner of a Tennessee-based technical translation service says he will no longer consider foreign-born university graduates for employment after an experience in which one of his workers could not gain a needed H-1B visa. He spent more than $10,000 in a futile effort to keep the employee -- who was fluent in English and Japanese -- on staff. He says he has had little luck finding American-born workers with the right blend of skills.


His business seems to fit the bill for the ostensible purpose of the H-1B program: to allow American employers to supplement their staffs with workers who have skills sets that are not readily available. Yet many opponents contend that the program is being abused by Indian outsourcing firms that hog a disproportionate number of the visas.


Efforts at H-1B reform are under way, with several pieces of legislation introduced during the last few months. SMBs will no doubt want to watch those proposals closely, and maybe even contact their own Congressional representatives to make their opinions known.