As President Trump prepares to overhaul the H-1B visa program in the midst of turmoil over immigration issues, many U.S. tech companies are panicking. But some, it seems, are less worried.
President Trump’s plans for the H-1B program are unclear, but a leaked draft of the proposed executive order includes language that speaks to efficiency, and an attempt to “ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest.” Will this negatively impact the American economy, by denying it access to a source of skilled, critical labor? Or will this work to effectively protect American workers?
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa program that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ “specialty occupation workers”—those with exceptional skills and college degrees—to fill jobs for which qualified Americans cannot be found. Currently, 85,000 foreign tech workers are brought to the U.S. under the program each year, and a recent Goldman Sachs report claims that H1-B visa holders account for up to 13 percent of American technology jobs. Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Facebook have notably pushed for the annual quota to be raised.
Although proponents of the H-1B program stress the benefits of the world’s best minds coming to the U.S. to help companies to grow, critics have claimed that the program allows certain companies to game the system by outsourcing IT-jobs to countries with cheaper labor. There is an argument for focusing on the balance between protecting the rights of H-1B visa-holders and trying to keep the system from displacing American employees. According to the New York Times, 13 of the 20 companies that received the most H-1B visas in 2014 were global outsourcing operations.
Note, however, that immigrants have founded many well-known tech firms, including Google, Intel, Yahoo, and Ebay.