As More Businesses Tap the Global Remote Workforce, H-1B Visas Are Growing Irrelevant  

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Between 2000 and 2015, 1.8 million H1-B visas were awarded, allowing talented people from other countries to work in the US for up to six years and apply for permanent residence. Many business leaders made their way to the US through H1-B visas, including leading lights like Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

During the Trump administration, however, H-1B visas were subject to numerous attempts at restricting them, including higher salary requirements that were prohibitively expensive for many firms and lower caps on the total number of visas awarded per year.

In December, a judge dismissed the Trump administration’s most recent attempt to further restrict H-1B visas, and it’s likely the new Biden administration will undo many of the Trump administration’s other changes. But the point is, to some degree, moot. The H-1B visa itself is quickly becoming a relic of our pre-pandemic work norms.

The shift in 2020 to remote work showed many organizations they could operate successfully with a 100 percent remote staff, or at least a staff that is partly remote for the long term. This new paradigm is allowing organizational leaders to rethink who they hire without worrying as much about using H-1B visas to obtain foreign talent. A report from Envoy indicates that 85 percent of employers expect to hire more foreign nationals in the next year. Compared to the number of employers who feel the visa application process has gotten easier, twice as many say the process has gotten more difficult, according to Envoy’s report. In light of this fact, organizations may want to consider whether hiring remote talent might make more sense than pursuing a visa.

Rather than competing for the few skilled workers in the local market or dealing with the costs and logistics of bringing someone in from abroad, employers are starting to look for the best talent that fits their needs regardless of where that talent may be located. Rather than paying through the nose to bring these candidates to company headquarters, many organizations are choosing to support new hires remotely.

Many engineering teams are in an excellent position to shift their hiring practices from locally to globally focused. Once project-based, software development is now largely agile; teams adapt and change what they develop quickly, accepting new inputs and bringing together disparate talent as needed to solve various problems fluidly. Security can also be managed remotely, thanks to innovative cloud-managed IT options like Cisco’s Meraki. Similarly, tools from GitHub to Slack allow for easy communication and encourage teams to innovate collaboratively.

A Year of Remote Work Has Taught Us What’s Possible

The time we have all spent working 100 percent remotely is serving as a motivator to alter our hiring practices as resources open up and companies get back to a growth trajectory. That said, shifting a recruiting strategy from one of location-based hiring to global hiring requires a few changes.

For example, a remote-first mindset is not just about allowing employees to work from home. Without in-person interviews and the requirement to hire people within commuting distance, HR teams and hiring managers can and must rethink everything from their talent pipelines to their interview processes to ensure they identify and attract the best talent wherever it may be. This may require company-wide retraining — for instance, recruiters may need to learn how to interview people from diverse backgrounds without bias.

As companies increasingly recognize the ways in which remote work opens a pool of global talent, leaders should work with their HR and recruiting partners to designate the countries they’d like to leverage to bolster their remote workforces. For example, it may be prudent to target talent in countries with overlapping or complementary working hours or in countries with higher concentrations of senior programmers and app developers.

Outsourcing parts of the hiring process can help a recruiting team expand its reach to new regions, ensuring that talent can be sourced, screened, and available quickly. Talent marketplaces can also offer various services — like managing paperwork and handling payments — that expand a company’s ability to hire global remote workers without a lot of heavy lifting.

One of the pandemic’s silver linings is the level playing field it created for hiring remote talent. Without the need to bring engineers into US-based offices, companies can create efficiencies by finding the candidates they need at the source without the cost, stress, and disappointment of the H1-B process. As visa restrictions and regulations cause competition for US-based workers to heat up, smart hiring managers are looking across country borders for new opportunities.

Arpan Jhaveri is vice president of marketing at Andela.

Read more in Global Recruitment

Arpan Jhaveri is a marketing leader who is passionate about understanding customer pain points and building world-class teams. As Andela's vice president of marketing, Arpan oversees all facets of marketing and works to connect talent in emerging countries with global opportunities. Arpan started his career as a software engineer, and he has held leadership roles in both product management and product marketing.