In June 2020, in response to the coronavirus, President Trump signed an executive order to freeze access to new H-1B visas for professional and technology workers doing business in the U.S. This has a huge impact, considering in 2019 about 139,000 new H-1B petitions were approved, joining 250,00 which were extended.
Those that agree with the H-1B restrictions order tout the fact it will bring jobs back to the newly unemployed who have been impacted by the sudden economic shift brought on by the pandemic in the U.S. Yet, those against it say it will stifle innovation and diversity, among other things.
While there’s been plenty of debate on both sides of the issue, the fact of the matter is that companies need to continue with their digital transformation and modernization initiatives now more than ever. The pandemic has made it increasingly apparent we need to provide more remote working capabilities, use digital transformation to reinvent how we work and drive new revenue streams, as well as leverage AI to assist humans in overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges.
However, adding to the reduction in H-1B visa holders in the U.S., the country is already facing a shortage of qualified tech talent, such as data scientists, software engineers, cybersecurity professionals and others.
Emerging solutions that incorporate machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and other forms of AI are complicated to build and maintain, requiring the specialized expertise of software engineers and data scientists. Due to the shortage of expertises required for these cognitive solutions and the rapid fire of product enhancements, it’s no longer feasible for companies to bring all software development work in-house while remaining laser focused on their core business.
A ban on H-1B visa holders entering the U.S. or a lack of qualified in-house talent doesn’t have to mean a reduction in technology development. In fact, nearshoring has always been a reliable way for companies to leverage tech talent and resources closer to home.
Nearshoring and its Benefits
The business benefits of nearshoring to U.S. or international providers continue to grow. Given the complexity of today’s AI and other software solutions, it’s important to have a partner with the right skill set nearby. Having the convenience of similar time zones for daily stand-up meeting calls or a short plane ride for in-person meetings is important when close collaboration is required. Further, when nearshorers reside in your own country, they follow similar government regulations.
Nearshoring: Providing Stability in an Unpredictable World
As an article in Tech Crunch points out, the work-from-home shift is proving that teams can operate well from a distance. According to the article, “In the global remote shift, nearshoring is being seen as an accepted and advantageous model. Companies that opt to nearshore in response to the H-1B visa ban can take advantage of the changing tides and use this time to lay the groundwork for best practices within remote teams.”
As companies continue to operate remotely, with employees working close but not physically on-site, it’s an easy transition to working with a nearshorer that can take on the responsibilities of H-1B visa holders.
Further, while there are just concerns about H-1B visa restrictions stifling diversity in software teams, Latin America comprises a vibrant nearshoring community that can bring diversity to projects. They can offer professional teams with new viewpoints, insights and experiences. Nearshorers can provide a melting pot of diversity that can inform new AI solutions, remove inherent biases and address the needs of pressing business challenges.
Aside from the diversity nearshorers can bring in the absence of H-1B visa workers, they also provide stability. As we are all learning the hard way during the pandemic, nothing can be taken for granted in how we work, who we work with and how well businesses will fare.
We also don’t know how long the H-1B visa ban will last or when new restrictions could be put into place. Yet, nearshorers, especially those in the U.S., are not impacted by these restrictions. They can provide stable, long-term partnerships for continued technology innovation.
How Do You Pick the Right Nearshorer?
With the unpredictability of H-1B visas, nearshoring can clearly fill the gaps in helping companies accelerate digital transformation or modernization projects, but it’s crucial to select the right one for your organization.
Below are four questions to ask before signing on with one:
- What are your security and privacy compliance processes?
Especially when it comes to data-driven solutions, it’s vital to know your data is secure with your partner. Ask about how it ensures security and adheres to its own compliance standards.
- How open are your collaboration tools and data repositories?
To effectively collaborate during the pandemic and beyond, find out if you can access their tools, such as GitHub, Slack and other platforms. It not only provides for greater productivity but also reinforces the nearshorer’s commitment to an open, committed partnership.
- How often do you meet clients?
You should hold weekly meetings, not only with the project lead and client contact, but with the whole nearshoring team working on your project.
- Can I see the resumes of my team members?
Often, a company hires a nearshorer on the merits and experience of the company leaders. Yet, you should know the background and credentials of each team member actually performing the work on your project.
Despite the diversity and talent pool that is enabled thanks to foreign H-1B visa professionals, restrictions on their ability to work in the U.S. may not be going away anytime soon. Nearshoring, however, provides the innovation, skillset and diversity to keep tech innovation moving forward with or without visa restrictions. After all, with the dire need for U.S. tech talent, there’s plenty of room at the table for everyone.