As you may have seen in the news, there’s a movement afoot to boost the number of H1B visas next year, from 65,000 to 115,000, plus the continuation of 20,000 visas for highly educated foreigners. It doesn’t take a genius to see why this idea isn’t received with open arms by American IT workers, especially not independent SAP consultants and others who would see a direct impact on both opportunities and compensation levels. Some, like the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, are determined to put up a fight to save their jobs.
But then again, the hiring company always benefits from more options, more competition and lower rates, so it’s not a clean-cut situation. We asked veteran SAP career guru Jon Reed for a quick comment on the matter. True to form, he replied with a guest column:
The proposed increase in H1B visas would have an immediate impact on the SAP consulting market by expanding the availability of experienced SAP consultants. The compelling question is whether this is good or bad news. It all depends on where you land in the market. For SAP hiring managers and SAP customers, this is good news. Additional consultants means more choices and lower rates. For consultants trying to make a living in North America, anything that affects the supply and demand curve by increasing the supply of qualified consultants is decidedly bad news. More consultants on the market means lower rates and less opportunities. For those who believe strongly in fostering “American jobs for American workers,” any increase in H1B visa limits is also bad news.
On the other hand, there are quality H1 professionals from many different countries who will do a great job on projects when given the opportunity. Increases in visa limits is a good thing from their vantage point. As for where I stand, I can appreciate the validity of all of these different takes on the pros and cons of H1s. It’s also good to remember that some major areas of the SAP market, such as many Public Sector projects, cannot hire H1s for legal reasons, so an increase in the supply of H1 consultants does not affect all sectors.
The one thing I feel strongly about is that I don’t believe the H1B visa controversy should take on the tone of ethnic backlash. It’s important to remember that there are SAP professionals of all ethnicities who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are also impacted by the increase in the supply of H1B consultants. So it’s good to dial down the anger-filled ethnic angle and look at this from a calmer vantage point of whether an increase in H1s is really necessary to satisfy the demand for experienced SAP and IT professionals. That in itself is a worthy debate.
In the past years, I would have said that there are enough SAP consultants and that it would be better in the long run to preserve higher rates for good consultants and limit H1s. But with all the upgrade projects going on right now, you could make a serious argument that more senior SAP consultants are needed, and that companies would surely be glad to have the option to hire more H1B consultants also. This is a serious debate without any easy answers so I won’t attempt to provide one here.
Jon Reed is the author of the SAP Consultant Handbook and has been publishing SAP career and market analysis for more than a decade. Most recently, he served as the vice president and founding editor of SAPtips.