As H-1B hiring continues to dog frustrated domestic tech pros, a new study shows companies are offering green cards to foreign workers who agree to come stateside via the visa program.
Envoy Global, a company focused on helping companies sponsor and manage work visas globally, recently published a study showing 66 percent of queried employers say they offer green cards to employees with work visas. The same percentage say they begin the green card process on behalf of H-1B and other visa holders the first year they’re employed with the company.
“Leading companies think about immigration strategically. For example – companies that offer foreign nationals benefits that allow them to remain in the U.S. longer are finding more success in retaining foreign talent,” says Richard Burke, CEO of Envoy Global. “With heightened political scrutiny comes heightened anxiety among foreign nationals looking to work in the U.S. Companies that are able to provide their employees peace of mind by offering them a clear path to a permanent green card are getting ahead of the competition in retaining the best talent.”
Costs aren’t spared, either. Envoy Global found 80 percent of employers who sponsor foreign employees via a visa program like H-1B pay for all fees related to obtaining a green card. Although companies typically have a ‘payback’ agreement if a green card worker quits before the agreed-upon employment time has concluded, less than half (49 percent) require continued employment for H-1B and similarly visa’ed employees.
Envoy points to competition as a main driver for companies offering green cards to visa employees. “Now more than ever, foreign national employees are looking for the peace of mind and security associated with long-term sponsorship,” writes Envoy. “When choosing between competing offers for positions in the U.S., a path to permanent residence is a powerful incentive.”
In addition to the 66 percent who start the green card process within the first year of service, an additional 28 percent of companies hiring H-1B and other visa employees say they initiate the permanent residence process within five years of hiring a foreign worker, drawing a direct path to citizenship.
If this sounds alarming, it shouldn’t. The Trump administration has been effective with regard to reforming the H-1B program, but its policies also send mixed signals. Earlier this year, Trump suggested the H-1B visa program may open up a direct path to citizenship to “bring both simplicity and certainty” for foreign-born tech employees staying stateside.
Elsewhere, outsourcing and consulting firms that handle H-1B visas are suing the government to open the floodgates. Over 40 lawsuits claim U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is far too stringent in approving H-1B visa applications, and would like regulations relaxed.