Tech Companies Tread Warily on H-1B Visa Reform


The big tech companies rely on skilled overseas workers. They have criticized a range of government decisions such as the ending of the DACA program. However, on the issue of H-1B visa reform, these companies have adopted a lighter touch.

The Verge reported how Microsoft issued a strongly worded statement defending DACA after the Trump administration announced it would be rescinded.

DACA is an Obama-era program that permits immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to remain if they meet certain requirements.

The Trump administration is considering ending the program. The president has asked Congress to move on the issue.

The Verge article points out tech companies were also highly vocal in the condemnation of Trump’s executive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries in 2017.

Leading executives from companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook were critical of the executive order.

Some employees staged large protests at their worksites. Sergey Brin, a Google co-founder who escaped from Russia to the U.S. as a child, joined protestors at San Francisco Airport.

Arguably, Trump’s executive order on H-1B visas has more impact on tech companies that rely on a steady stream of IT workers from the Indian subcontinent.

The H-1B visa program allows these companies to bring highly skilled workers from overseas. The tech industry relies on H-1B visas more than any other. The order could shake up the system.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are brought into the United States to work for the likes of Google, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple as well as other companies.

For the tech companies, the visa program is a much larger source of workers than the DACA program.

The Verge reported that while Apple is working to protect about 250 DACA workers, in 2016 the company submitted more than 23,000 petitions for H-1B visa workers.

The H-1B visa application process involves a lottery and is controversial. Applications exceed granted visas.

Some American labor groups believe it’s a means of outsourcing jobs and replacing older American employees with cheaper foreign labor that receives fewer protections and benefits. The Verge article speculated that tech companies are not as vocal in the defense of the program as over other issues because they have more to lose.

The article pointed to the inextricable link between the wider immigration agenda and the issue of H-1B visas.

For instance, in early 2017 when a federal judge in Seattle blocked the original travel ban he made reference to a motion from Microsoft that pointed out Washington State’s heavy reliance on H-1B visas to bring workers to the tech industry.

Other companies headquartered in Washington including Expedia, Amazon, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders.

The judge suggested the loss of highly skilled workers associated with the travel highly skilled workers puts Washington companies at a competitive disadvantage with its global competitors.

If you are seeking H-1B visas for overseas workers, our experienced Austin immigration lawyers can help you. Please call us at (512) 399-2311.

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