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US – Staffing Firms Still Find H-1B Difficulties

12 March 2012

Staffing firms continue to experience difficulty bringing in workers on H-1B visas, said Mark Roberts, CEO of the TechServe Alliance, a collaboration of information technology services firms, clients, consultants and suppliers.

“They are going through, but not without difficulty,” Roberts said in an interview Friday. The TechServe Alliance is continuing work to get the problem resolved, he said.

The difficulties continue as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is set to begin accepting H-1B petitions on April 2. H-1B visas allow firms to bring in highly skilled individuals, such as information technology professionals.

For staffing firms, however, there has been difficulty bringing in workers on H-1B visas after the USCIS released the “Neufeld Memo” in 2010. The memo listed “third-party placement/job shop” as an example of a firm that does not qualify as an H-1B visa employer.

The TechServe Alliance filed suit against USCIS in 2010. The judge dismissed the case without issuing an injunction to prohibit the use of the memo, but the government did concede that staffing firms could be considered employers for the purposes of bringing in H-1B workers. Last year, opponents of the Neufeld Memo also got a boost when Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, weighed in against the memo.

However, problems remain. Roberts said staffing firms are bringing in H-1B workers, but they are seeing challenges.

“A staffing firm is almost assured of getting an RFE (request for evidence),” Roberts said. The may also have to produce a letter from the client — which some clients may do and some may not.

In addition, some U.S. consulates overseas are refusing to stamp visas for workers going to staffing firms despite clearance from the USCIS, he said. Workers can go back to the USCIS for reapproval, but the extra steps require more time and money. The also create uncertainty, creating a chilling effect for workers and staffing firm clients.

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