As we previously reported, a large percentage of the highly-skilled immigrants working in the U.S. under an H-1B visa are employed in the technology sector. Considering this fact, it doesn’t come as a surprise that numerous tech leaders voiced their disapproval of Trump’s decision to suspend the admission of refugees for 120 days and ban people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States altogether for at least 90 days.
While Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees did spark controversy both domestically and abroad, it doesn’t immediately affect the tech industry as much as the next one could. According to a Bloomberg report, Trump’s administration is working on an executive order targeted at changing the work-visa programs that tech companies currently rely on to hire foreign talent.
Originally designed to enable U.S. companies to hire foreign specialist workers when they cannot find an equally-skilled American candidate, the H-1B visa program has, in Trump’s view, been abused to hire cheaper foreign workers instead of American applicants. The proposed draft, a copy of which has been reviewed by Bloomberg, would oblige companies to prioritize American workers and, should no adequate candidate be available, hire the most highly paid foreign applicant.
As our chart illustrates, America’s largest tech companies are featured prominently among the Top 50 employers of H-1B workers. According to Myvisajobs.com, IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Intel and Facebook all filed 1,000+ Labor Condition Applications for H-1B visas in fiscal year 2016. An LCA is filed by prospective employers of foreign workers. It is a prerequisite for the actual visa application process. What’s also interesting is the average salary provided in the application filings. They clearly indicate that the positions to be filled by foreign workers are in fact jobs that require specialty skills, seemingly refuting Trump’s suspicion of specialty visa programs being abused to hire cheap foreign workers.