Entrepreneurs and Immigration: Startups not cheering proposed H-1B sops

Most technologists and business leaders seem to agree that the rationale for Immigration reform and “HIGH-SKILLED INTEGRITY AND FAIRNESS ACT OF 2017 (link)” is certainly a valid one! A section specifically mentions startups and small businesses:


  • Sets aside 20% of the annual allocation of H-1B visas for small and start-up employers (those with 50 or fewer employees).

  • Petitions filed under this subsection must include an attestation from the petitioner that the beneficiary will not be placed for more than 30 days at a third party worksite.

The optimism, however, is not shared by all in the hi-tech world. For instance, Economic Times reporters Ishani & Neha write

The latest Bill seeking to tighten the conditions for use of the H-1B visa that brought gloom to the IT services sector on Tuesday, also had a provision for startup hiring that drew a tepid response from industry experts.

The Bill, introduced in the US House of Representatives on Monday by Congressman Zoe Lofgren, proposes setting aside 20% of the annual allocation of H-1B visas for small and startup employers with 50 or fewer employees. “Even if the special quota of 20% is reserved for startups, it is not going to be significantly helpful,” said Poorvi Chothani, a Mumbai-based immigration attorney.

“For example, one of our clients, a subsidiary of an Indian IT company, in the US currently has 10 employees and could benefit from the 20% quota. But he requires 50 to 80 employees in this year. Once he gets these he is no longer eligible for the 20% quota even though it is a startup,” she added.

Phil Fersht, CEO of IT research firm Horses for Sources, said the 20% startup provision could be beneficial for some startups, “for very specific areas, such as artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, this puts some startups in an advantageous position to large corporates,” he said.

The provision further states that petitions filed under this proposal must include an attestation from the company that the beneficiary will not remain at the client site for over 30 days. “We do not see the provisions, which favour startups, as having a meaningful effect… Most startups do not have the sophistication or time to navigate the visa process and the $10,000 expense for application and legal work will further deter them,” said Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of the Everest Group, an IT advisory company.

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