Got an H-1B? You’re hot property
Posted on March 7, 2014
With demand in the IT services sector on the rise, and costs and restrictions on long-term work visa for the US expected to increase, the existing H-1B visa holders have become ‘hot property’. According to sources in recruitment and headhunting space, several Indian IT services companies are giving preference to candidates who hold the ‘most sought after’ H-1B visa as against those who may have the same skill set but no stamp on their passport.
“The first question I ask candidates when I call them to discuss an onsite opening is if they hold an H1-B; if the reply is yes, half my job is done,” says an executive search manager at a Bangalore-based recruitment firm that has several large and mid-size IT services companies as its clients. “Some of our clients have clearly told us to target only those candidates who have valid H-1B visas and not consider the others. This has left us with an extremely limited scope for recruitment.”
An analyst with an American research firm who holds an H-1B visa says he gets calls from recruiters very often offering him roles of ‘technology analysts’. “They don’t even realise that my specialisation is not what would fit an IT services company’s expectations. Just because I have a visa and a some friends in the market know about it, I keep getting approached.”
The H-1B is a highly sought after work visa for IT professionals as it allows them to stay and work in the US for a long tenure of up to six years. Additionally, the H-1B visa is transferable, which allows its holders flexibility to shift jobs. The visa can be transferred to a new employer at a cost much lower than that cost of getting a new visa, making it a win-win situation for the employee and the companies. Several IT companies use the promise of getting an employee H-1B visa as an attraction to retain him, experts say.
In 2013, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had received 124,000 applications for H-1B visas as against the cap of 65,000, which was exceeded within the first five days of applications process starting. This had triggered the agency to use the lottery system for granting H-1B visas.
The main reason for increase in demand for H-1B visa holders is the sudden recovery in the US market and an uptick in demand from clients, industry experts said. Most Indian IT companies are seeing higher demand from clients in the US since the past few months and they may need to send more employees onsite on urgent basis. However, the application process for fresh H-1B visas will start from April, and the visas would be issued only by October.
“The US market is opening up rapidly right now and some companies may have urgent requirement of people,” said Ganesh Natarajan, vice chairman and CEO of mid-sized IT services company Zensar Technologies. “Under such circumstances there is a need to hire people who have a valid H-1B and can be immediately put on the job rather than wait for someone to go through the entire visa process.”
Ravi Shankar, chief people officer at Bangalore-based Mindtree says, “if you are looking for hiring for an onsite role, you would look at candidates with a valid H-1B visa. There are candidates who have an H-1B but are now back in India, their companies have not sent them onsite again, and such candidates could be tapped into in the industry.”
The demand for H-1B visa holders is also on the rise due to the several concerns around US immigration laws and expectations that the cost for getting this long-term visa could rise over three folds in the future.
Additionally, there are concerns that the process to obtain an H-1B visa may become longer as US authorities become stricter with respect to misuse of visa. In November, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had reported that after Infosys paid $34 million (approximately Rs 210 crore) to reach a civil settlement with the US authorities over alleged visa misuse, the US government is investigating other IT companies for violation of immigration laws. Several experts are of the view that Infosys’ episode might drag its peers under the scanner.
Anurag Gupta, COO at staffing solutions firm Magna Infotech says, “under the proposed immigration bill, it is expected that the cost for an H-1B visa would rise and the quota may even reduce. With the demand rising, in the coming times requirement for H-1B visas will rise but supply will come under constraint. There would be no surprise if H-1B becomes a requisite skill set for an employee in the coming times.”