Outsourcing service providers have long been in the practice of bringing highly skilled employees from India and other locations to work with local businesses within the United States. Outsourcers such as Wipro, TCS and Infosys are some the largest petitioners of H-1B visas, the high-skilled work visa favored by the tech industry. In order to bring the most value to customers, service providers largely rely on getting work visas for Indian tech workers so they can consult with U.S. businesses.
But the well-trodden path of H-1B visas is closing up, and it has been for some time. In the last five years, it has been increasingly difficult to get H-1B visas. In 2017, there were 199,000 applications while only 85,000 H-1B visas were granted (20,000 of those are reserved for individuals in advanced education programs). Even more recently, the Trump administration has announced that it is going to apply more rigor to H-1B applications by requiring more information in the applications. The Trump administration recently released a memo outlining the new level of evidence and government scrutiny that will be applied to the visa process going forward. This is going to make it even more difficult for service providers to get quality resources from India to the U.S., and to extend existing visas for workers that are already in the U.S. providing services.
As the customer, your service provider’s immigration issues can translate into a disruption in business through the loss of quality resources that you need in order to run your operations. Questions that customers should be thinking about include:
- How do you avoid disruption in your services when your service provider cannot replace critical workers due to a loss of visa?
- What steps can you take in your contract to ensure that you are protected from your service provider’s visa issues?
- How do you avoid getting entangled in your service provider’s visa application process?
What to do?
- Ask the questions up front. Ask your service provider how it is going to mitigate against disruptions in work if it cannot obtain visas? Ensure that as the customer, you are not going to be charged additional amounts, and that the service provider has the burden of getting the visa in place. In addition, make sure you know what role your service provider expects you to play in the visa process. With the USCIS increasing its scrutiny on applications, service providers may expect customers to be more involved than they would otherwise like to be in the visa process (e.g., sharing agreements, statements of work or other evidence of services being performed).
- Check Your Dependencies. For existing contracts, ask how much of your current labor is dependent on H-B1 visas, and when the visas expiring for your most critical workers. If the visas are expiring soon, find out what your service provider is planning to do to fill the potential gaps in the critical personnel.
- Right to Hire. Negotiate a right to hire personnel with your service provider if a visa expires. If a highly skilled worker on your account is denied a visa extension, you’ll want the option to hire the worker, which will avoid service disruption and knowledge loss.
- On Boarding Requirements. Check your service providers “bench” of personnel, and ensure that your agreement has timing requirements for on boarding resources within a certain time period after you have requested the services.