Dick Burke, President and CEO of VISANOW, on the importance for US business to understand the complexities of and opportunities in hiring foreign nationals.
At the 2015 Argyle Human Capital Leadership Forum in San Francisco on October 29th, Burke’s presentation, “Empowering Businesses to Modernize Immigration Programs,” began with some impressive statistics: One-fourth of productivity growth in the last 20 years was driven by highly skilled, foreign-born STEM workers. For every skilled immigrant hire, large companies acquire 3.5 additional workers over the subsequent 14 years as a result of that hire. For smaller companies, an additional 7.5 workers are acquired in 14 years as a result of one, foreign-worker hire.
"One-fourth of productivity growth in the last 20 years was driven by highly skilled, foreign-born STEM workers."
H1B is the most common temporary visa, and VISANOW recently asked 100 HR departments representing 100,000 employees how important H1B workers are to them. Half of the respondents said the ability to hire an H1B candidate was important, and 23% said it was critical.
Hiring foreign nationals is a challenge, said Burke, because there’s a significant imbalance between supply and demand. For the last five years, the supply of visas has remained constant at 85,000 annually, yet in the last two years, the number of applications has nearly doubled from 120,000 to 235,000. It used to take 166 days to reach the 85,000 visa cap; now it happens in six days. This translates to 150,000 jobs unfilled, said Burke.
"It used to take 166 days to reach the 85,000 visa cap; now it happens in six days. This translates to 150,000 jobs unfilled, said Burke."
In a survey conducted by VISANOW, 83% of HR leaders found the H1B process “incredibly stressful,” because the odds are so small of an applicant receiving a visa.
Burke described four alternatives to the H1B process that companies can pursue:
1. A TN visa is similar to H1B but is only for people from Mexico or Canada. There’s no yearly quota, but it applies only to certain types of jobs and backgrounds and is good for three years. There’s no cap on renewals, whereas H1B can only be renewed twice. There’s no dual intent for a TN visa, meaning an applicant seeks a visa and also intends to emigrate.
2. An E3 visa applies only to Australia. Many Australians hold dual citizenship, so this visa can be useful, said Burke. It’s similar to the TN visa in many regards, with unlimited extensions and no dual intent, but is only good for two years instead of three.
3. An H1B1 visa applies to Singapore and Chile. It’s similar to the previous two visas in terms of background and education requirements, but it has some portability restrictions.
4. An L visa can be used by US companies that have operations outside the US. The visa holder has to be in a foreign country for a continuous 12 months and there has to be a connection between the employer overseas and the employer in US. This is a more job-specific than skill-specific visa. This is a dual intent visa.
Burke mentioned that some abuses of the H1B program, which resulted in US citizens being replaced by H1B workers, along with other factors should create pressure for H1B reform that will address the demand imbalance.
“We need to keep in mind that immigration is about helping people and companies reach their potential,” concluded Burke.
ABOUT DICK BURKE:
Dick Burke is the president and chief executive officer of VISANOW Inc. He’s responsible for the development of overall company strategy, marketing, sales, finance, business development, and technology, while managing day-to-day operations.
He has vast, growth-business and management experience as well as legal services insight. Prior to VISANOW, Burke served as president of Apartments.com, where he managed its business operations, including sales, marketing, product development, production, customer service, and technology. During his tenure, the business attained record numbers in customers, traffic, and revenues.
Previously, Burke served as senior vice president of administration and corporate development for Classified Ventures LLC. In this capacity, he oversaw Homegain.com, the company’s online real estate business. In addition, he led the company’s corporate services division, comprised of corporate technology, legal, human resources, communications, facilities, and corporate development. He played an integral role in successful acquisitions, including Apartment Home Living. Burke signed the papers that formed Classified Ventures LLC in 1997 and represented the company that same year in its acquisition of Visual Properties LLC, the predecessor of Apartments.com. Burke joined the organization in October 1998 as chief legal officer. Earlier in his career, he practiced law at Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella P.C. and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
As a product of immigration, Burke believes that immigration affords individuals and businesses the opportunity to maximize their potential while strengthening society.