H-1B visa alternative: How to keep foreign talent despite program suspension

June 24, 2020

H-1B visa alternative

Precautionary measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, like travel restrictions and government office closures, have made it more difficult for foreign workers to be issued visas. There were just 143 new visas issued this May in the U.S., compared with more than 13,500 visas in May of last year.

Unfortunately, this downward trend impacting foreign employment in the U.S. will intensify in the coming months, thanks to an executive order signed on June 22, 2020. The new order will extend a freeze on H-1B visas—among others types of work visas—through the end of the year.

What are H-1B visas and who uses them?

H-1B visas allow organizations in the U.S. to temporarily employ foreign workers with specialized skills for a fixed period of time—typically three years with the option to extend for an additional three years.

Predominantly, these visas are utilized by the U.S. tech industry, as workers in “computer-related occupations” account for nearly 70% of all H-1B applications.

What does the executive order mean for businesses and individuals?

Since 85,000 new H-1B visas were planned for approval in 2020, the June executive order will certainly be felt by both foreign workers and employers in the U.S. Here are some potential impacts:

  • Foreign nationals planning to enter the U.S. and work under an H-1B visa will be unable to do so until the ban expires.
  • Employers seeking skilled labor will need to reconsider their hiring and recruitment strategy and possibly reevaluate business growth projections as projects begin to stall.

Is there an H-1B visa alternative to help meet company objectives?

Yes and no. Because the executive order has suspended visas for foreign employees in the U.S., any H-1B visa alternative would need to come from within the organization—as a change in their hiring strategy in order to meet talent needs.  

Many fast-growing start-ups that depend on highly skilled engineering teams have addressed talent concerns by hiring in emerging tech markets outside of the U.S. and Silicon Valley, such as Toronto, Tel-Aviv or Warsaw. Taking a global approach to staffing has allowed these organizations to keep projects moving forward, even during times of geopolitical risk.

Any organization seeking to hire skilled employees for specific roles should consider a more agile approach to employment as their H-1B visa alternative. Hiring workers in their home countries—rather than bringing them to the U.S. through specialized visa programs—has proven to be a strategic opportunity for employers.  

How a global employer of record can act as an H-1B visa alternative

With a global employer of record, organizations can hire workers in their home countries, virtually anywhere in the world, without first having to set up a legal business entity

Our flexible employer of record solution, Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO), allows organizations with diverse talent needs like yours to build international teams quickly and compliantly. We’ve helped hundreds of organizations expand their talent pool by hiring foreign workers—without the need for an H-1B visa—for over 10 years. GEO can:

  • Compliantly hire and pay candidates on your behalf in over 179 countries—often in as little as two weeks
  • Handle HR, employment and salary requirements—so all you need to manage is your employees' day-to-day activities
  • Support employee populations ranging from one to hundreds of workers
  • Employ workers in their home country for as little as three months—once you can employ them in the U.S., we seamlessly transition employment to you

Contact us today to discuss how GEO can help you keep your projects moving—in spite of changes to H-1B visa rules—by employing your critical workers on your behalf, in their home country.


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