h-1 b visaThe IT talent shortage has pushed companies to consider bolder solutions to their hiring dilemmas. For example, when tech workers with the right blend of skills aren’t available stateside, companies ranging from tech giants to Fortune 500s have been willing to roll the dice with the H-1B lottery system. Though far from perfect, H-1B sponsorship does provide some relief for a number of vacant tech positions out there. Here’s what you need to know about the future of H-1B visa filing and which IT recruiting strategies might prove to be a more reliable alternative.

Premium Processing Is Delayed Until September

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) receives thousands of applications as soon as H-1B application season starts. This year, the USCIS will begin accepting H-1B applications on April 2nd until they hit their cap of 65,000 regular H-1B applicants and an additional 20,000 under the Master’s exemption. If it’s anything like recent years, that cap could be reached in five days! From there, companies will wait anywhere between three to six months for their H-1B submission to be reviewed. Previously, companies could expedite the H-1B visa process through premium processing which reduced the wait time to approximately 15 days.

For the second year in a row, the USCIS has suspended this service until September 10th, 2018. Why the temporary suspension? The USCIS’ official explanation is that the freeze is an attempt to prioritize the high volume of H-1B applications and extensions they already receive. Regardless of the motive, the end result is that more companies going through the H-1B visa process will wait longer for the results of their application and, if rejected, potentially be caught flat-footed without a replacement (if they are not pursuing other hiring strategies in the meantime).

The Application Process Has Grown More Complicated

Another obstacle facing U.S. companies? The H-1B visa filing process has deepened in complexity. The USCIS has grown more vigilant in the last few years, increasing the “request for evidence” (RFE) practice. The request for evidence is meant to ensure that visas are only being granted to professionals who meet the H-1B criteria, and have traditionally been used as extra validation when aspects of the application were a bit murky.

Last year, the requests for evidence skyrocketed, with some months seeing a year over year increase of 10,000 RFEs. For companies waiting to hear on the H-1B status of their candidates, the approval process now stretches out by several extra months and accrues further costs while responding to requests for evidence. That might be acceptable if candidates were guaranteed to be approved, but there has been a dip in the approval of H-1B applications in the first few months of this year, undercutting the established success-rate for approval.

How to Pivot from H-1B Visa Filing to Other Hiring Solutions

With H-1B visa sponsorship less predictable than in previous years, companies are going to need to increase their pursuit of other hiring strategies to keep their talent pipelines full. In many cases, that means pursuing more time-consuming but high-yielding activities like building relationships with passive candidates. Though many companies might not have the time and resources to dedicate internal team members to this process, working with a tech recruiting firm can funnel passive job seekers into your high-demand positions in more cost-effective ways.

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