How Prepared Are You for the IT Talent Shortage?

by Anastasia C. Valentine on July 16, 2015




Many of our clients have been wondering what the IT talent shortage means for their business. Though not everyone is feeling a strain in their hiring yet, the following factors threaten to prolong the time it takes to find most IT professionals:


Together, what does all that mean? The IT industry is reaching new peaks as IT talent is becoming harder to find. Lost revenue, lost productivity, and lost customers will impact day to day operations. Chances are, you have already dealt with some of the effects and you may be considering alternatives to the traditional talent pool.

In many cases, those who have exhausted all domestic talent options are turning to H-1B visa holders, but are encountering a different set of hiring issues. Is there any chance your business will be able to obtain an H-1B visa? Are there other ways to bypass the IT talent shortage?

The Impact of H-1B Limitations

Every year, we lose hundreds if not thousands of talented foreign-born IT graduates with American educations, who have no choice but to leave the country due to the difficulty of obtaining a long-term visa. Additionally, the federal government limits the entrance of H-1B visa holders including those with education from prestigious institutions worldwide. Our inability to access talented IT professionals based on merit rather than national status has contributed greatly to the IT skills gap. Sadly, the problem will only get worse.

The strict cap on H-1B visas is currently at 85,000 workers. That includes 65,000 of any employment category and 20,000 petitions under an advanced degree exemption. To truly convey the disparity between the limit and the demand, the number of applications for businesses to hire H-1B visa holders hit a record high of 233,000 this year.

Worst of all, this stringent practice has the potential to lose the United States 500,000 or more jobs, depending on the year, according to lobbyist group Compete America. And for those who do benefit from the luck of the H-1B lottery, there’s a long waiting period to bring your new employee into the country. Often, it can take 3 months to a year, depending on the country to get notification one way or another.

Is there an alternative to H-1B IT professionals for businesses looking to expand quickly? Yes, if you look to our neighbors to the north.

The TN-1 Visa: NAFTA’s Well-Kept Secret

NAFTA is a complicated trade agreement, but the visa category it created can provide a less complex alternative to the H-1B visa holder. The TN-1 visa allows the U.S. and Canada to exchange citizen workers more freely with only a fraction of the typical caveats that our country reserves for foreign workers.

For starters, there is no cap affiliated with the TN-1 visa. However, applicants do need to be Canadian citizens. So, if your candidate just arrived in Vancouver from India or the Philippines, they will need to be naturalized first to qualify for TN-1 visa status.

Additionally, it is a relatively quick and straightforward process – there are no anxious months of waiting. The only major stipulation is that the job description needs to fall under one of the categories that are approved by NAFTA under the TN-1 visa. Computer Systems Analysts, Graphic Designers, and Technical Writers are just a few of the categories included. Also, the position needs to be temporary in nature, as the candidate will only be issued a one year or three year visa. The idea is that the necessary work is completed and the worker returns to Canada. Any other assumption will complicate matters, which could affect the granting of the visa.

Though the process is less drawn out than an H1-B visa, it is still important to make sure that every aspect of the TN-1 visa filing is airtight. A best practice is to retain an attorney to compose the letter of entrance into the United States and to review all documents. Immigration law can be complicated, so every document must be written to a science, or you risk being turned down at the border (where the TN-1 visa stamp is given).

If you are arranging to bring in a contract employee under a TN-1 visa, there are a few things he or she will need to have in advance:

  • A Canadian passport valid for U.S. Travel
  • A nonimmigrant visa application (form DS-160)
  • A contract or letter of employment from your business
  • Documentation to confirm education qualifications

It is extremely important to verify all of this information beforehand, otherwise you risk having the deal crumble in the midst of the application process. Though it is not as long as the H-1B process, wasted efforts on a TN-1 visa are still damaging like any prolonged hiring procedures.

Want to simplify the process of hiring a TN-1 visa holder even further? Reach out to Resource 1. We have over 30 years of experience locating and placing exceptional IT talent from inside and outside the United States. Plus, we have access to experienced immigration counsel that can smooth out the entire process. Click here to learn more about our IT consulting services and staffing solutions.