Biopharma Companies Avoiding People Who Need Visas???

May, 09 2024
Biopharma Companies Avoiding People Who Need Visas???

Instead of being full of talent, diversity, and commitment, people born in other countries face obstacles while getting a job in the biopharma sector; some organizations are hesitant to hire those who need visas, as per the two recruitment experts. They evaluated unfamiliarity with the visa procedure as the biggest reason for this hesitation. Most temporary work visas need employer sponsorship; not all employers know how to direct the process. 

The hiring manager at BioSpace said, "The smaller or new the company, the less likely it is to hire employees who need visas.” He noted that bigger players such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, or Amgen will likely employ such candidates because they understand the visa process and have directed it before.  

Leslie Loveless agreed that smaller companies are more restrained. Loveless, CEO and managing partner of Slone Partners, a life sciences and healthcare executive search organization that works largely with early- and growth-stage firms. 

Clouse and Loveless' take on this biopharma hiring topic coincides with a recent BioSpace poll on LinkedIn. It found that 59% of companies are somewhat or very unlikely to hire people who need visas to work in the United States. 

Who are the candidates wanted to get hired? 

Many job candidates who need work visas are students trying to get their first position or postdocs trying to move out of academia and into industry, as per Clouse. He noted that they aren't typically coming from another country. Rather, they're already in the U.S. on a temporary visa.  

For instance, job candidates might have an H-1B temporary work visa that needs to be transferred from one employer to another or an F-1 student visa that requires to be converted to an H-1B. Biopharma professionals often use H-1B visas, as they're intended for specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge.  

Students don't always get hired right away. Loveless observed that job candidates frequently stretch their time in academia because they can't find an employer to sponsor their visas.  

As Clouse explained, a work visa can hinder employment for job candidates in today's competitive market. 

 "There's a lot of those people that just don't get interviews because they need sponsorship," he said. 

Sponsorship cost

Visa sponsorship can cost employers thousands of dollars, including filing fees, which upsurged on April 1 for many employment-based visas. For instance, as per the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services final rule, the H1-B filing fee went up from $460 to $780—a 70% increase—unless the organization is a nonprofit or a small employer with 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees, in which case the fee did not rise.  

The H1-B registration process fee has also gone up. Starting with the March 2025 registration period, it's upsurging from $10 to $215, an increase of 2,050%. 

That said, Clouse doesn't think that cost is why some companies hesitate to hire people who need visas, and Loveless noted that it's not a major issue.  

She explained, "I think the cost is less of an issue than just the time and the anxiety that can go along with 'How long is this going to take? And what if it doesn't get approved? And then we've lost all this time, and we still don't have our position filled.'"  

Loveless also observed that in the grand scheme of things, when companies hire someone appropriate for their organization, the sponsorship cost is not a huge expense in relative terms. 

Local candidates are always the first preference.

Additionally, being unpopular with the visa process, some employers avoid hiring employees who need visas because of the preference for local job candidates, as per Clouse and Loveless. Both pointed to timing issues.  

Clouse said, "So, if you work across town and I hire you, you can quit and be here in two, three weeks. You work across the country and I hire you, you can quit and be here in a month or two. You work in a different country, who knows how long that's going to take." 

Also Read: Hot Spot Countries For Biotechnology Jobs- Worldwide

Loveless shared that when she asks clients about their candidate search timelines, 90% of the time, they say, "Yesterday or a month ago is when I needed this person." 

"So, when you factor that into everything they're thinking about, then the visa sponsorship becomes even a bigger challenge for them," she said. 

Lack of Talented, Diverse, Committed Employees

According to Clouse and Loveless, companies that don't hire job candidates who require visas miss out on three key benefits: a wider pool of talent, a more diverse workforce, and committed employees. 

Regarding the wider talent pool, Clouse noted, "If you really just want the best candidate available, the larger region you can look in, the better chance you have of having that A-plus candidate." 

Loveless agreed. 

"Despite the fact that the talent market is not as tight as it was a couple of years ago, for great talent, it is still tight," she said. 

The wider candidate pool also benefits employers because it can help them have a more diverse workforce from a cultural, racial, and gender perspective, according to Clouse and Loveless. 

Regarding commitment, Loveless noted that organizations that sponsor employees get a level of commitment they might not see from their typical American candidate. She said these professionals are loyal to the companies sponsoring them and don't want to put their sponsorship status at risk and have to get another sponsorship.  

"With individuals that join your company on a visa, while there are some challenges that come with that, I think there are other challenges that that solves for the company in terms of just the commitment to the organization and staying with them for what is a longer period of time than you might see from someone that is not in that situation of being on a visa," she said. 

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