SMBs Say: Keep H-1B But Give Us a Share

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Sep 11, 2017

On July 11, the Trump administration made another major change to U.S. immigration policy that impacts the nation’s small and midsize businesses (SMBs) when the President postponed implementation of the International Entrepreneur Rule until March 14, 2018. This decision comes after the administration’s announcement in March to discontinue the “premium processing” of H-1B visa applications. The Trump administration reasons that its immigration reform policies will ensure a better deal for American industries. However, it appears that small and midsize business (SMB) owners don’t trust that the White House’s plans for immigration will deliver.

SMB owners’ desires and President Trump’s priorities for immigration reform are misaligned, according to a recent survey from TriNet, a professional employer organization that provides HR services for SMBs. The survey of TriNet clients included responses from more than 750 business leaders in industries with a high likeliness to have or need foreign national employees. When asked if the Trump administration understands how immigration reform would affect SMBs, 76% of respondents answered “no.”

SMBs say reform, don’t ban, H-1B

The immigration space has long been complex for SMBs. In fact, 78% of survey respondents agree that the current U.S. immigration system should be reformed. Furthermore, 83% believe that immigration regulations will become more burdensome in the next four years, while 76% say being unable to hire or employ foreign nationals would have a negative impact on their business.

SMBs and President Trump are aligned in one area: they both want to see reform to the H-1B visa process. Per the survey, 59% of respondents want greater allocation for SMBs in the H-1B visa lottery. These sentiments come as no surprise because smaller businesses currently have to compete with large companies that outsource a lot of work internationally. These major enterprises pour thousands of applications into the visa lottery.

SMBs want H-1B allocation

Allocating a specific number of H-1Bs to SMBs would level that uneven playing field. Additionally, simplifying the application process will reduce the amount of stress for applicants and their company sponsors. As a result, SMBs would have better access to the employees they need to succeed, while minimizing the strain on their internal resources.

Changes likely; SMBs should prepare

It’s likely that the Trump Administration will announce further changes to immigration policy that impact foreign workers. In the meantime, business owners and HR professionals should plan ahead to prevent immigration policy from creating unnecessary disruption in the workplace. To avoid fines, start preparing for the possibility of onsite visits from immigration officials by getting all paperwork up-to-date and making sure it’s organized for easy access. It’s also prudent to determine now whether a third-party expert will be needed to help with the process.

Additionally, HR staff should be prepared to offer empathy and understanding to foreign workers during this time, as they will likely be stressed by the uncertainty surrounding their future. Regardless of politics or immigration sentiments, employers need to make sure all of their workers feel supported and valued.