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Immigration Reform and Small Business

The sweeping immigration reform bill consists of a key provision – the expansion in the number of H1B temporary work visas for workers with college degrees or in skilled occupations from the current cap of 65,000 a year to 110,000. Immigration provisions allowing foreigners to legally work is bound to be contentious. However, the increase in the H1B cap is sure to be embraced by all employers, especially small businesses.

With the current, extremely limited, cap, small businesses have found it difficult to grow. Firstly, the cost, paperwork and the lengthy processing period cause small businesses to shy away from sponsoring talented workers. Of more serious concern is that even when small companies do submit H1B applications, due to the current cap, the number of small business applications can’t compete with the the large volume that big companies submit. Further, individual employees are more crucial and very important to a small company’s success and with the H1B cap set so low, the few applications submitted, if rejected, hit such companies even harder.

So with the H1B cap increase, more opportunities will be available for small businesses to seek foreign talent and aggressively sponsor such talent so that the business needs and growth are fulfilled.

What Other Options Do Small Businesses Have?

Along with the H1B, there are other visa options for small businesses. O-1 visas, usually called “artist visas” can be very useful for small businesses to fulfill their temporary work needs. O-1 visas are awarded to immigrants with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. O-1 visas are allotted for those few individuals who can prove that they are at the top of their fields. O visas are valid for the period of the petition, initially for a period up to 3 years, after which the employer can seek an extension of stay, if need be.

Another visa category that maybe useful is the L visa category. Small businesses in the United States that have subsidiaries or affiliates overseas can seek to bring foreign managers/executives or other employees with specialized knowledge to join the company here or start a new company in the States.