IT Staffing Report: Sept. 7, 2017

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Immigration and IT staffing in the US

US IT unemployment rates currently hover around 2%, with some occupational pockets even tighter. The supply of IT talent equipped with the most coveted skills is undoubtedly tight and competition is fierce. With an educational system not producing sufficient homegrown talent to meet demand, access to foreign workers can be a valuable resource in helping to bridge the skills gap.

For a citizen of a foreign country to enter the US for a temporary job, a visa is typically required. Of the various visa categories, the most relevant for US-based employers in search of IT workers is the H-1B visa. Yet, as the chart below illustrates, demand for H-1B visas has been outstripping supply for the past several years.

H-1B visa demand significantly exceeds supply

Click on chart to enlarge.

Despite the growing need for highly skilled IT workers, the current administration has offered nothing to suggest it would support increasing the cap of 85,000 annual H-1B visas issued. However, President Trump singled out his desire to reform the H-1B visa program as part of his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. The key themes the administration hopes to achieve with reform is to allocate visas to the “most skilled or highest paid” petitioners and to prevent fraud and abuse. There are numerous directions reform could take to address these goals. For example, the president has suggested he would like to replace the current lottery system in favor of a merit-based system (e.g. advanced degrees or jobs with higher salaries).

While the immigration reform bills introduced in Congress this year have not yet progressed in their current form, there is bipartisan support for preventing fraud and abuse. Different sets of stakeholders may be affected based on the outcome of reform. For staffing firms, the proposed changes present a unique set of challenges and opportunities. We discuss these challenges and opportunities and the usage of the H-1B visa program in IT staffing in our recent Immigration and IT Staffing in the US: A Moving Target report, accessible to corporate members.

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