Technology companies rely on the H1B visas and DACA recipients to fill these positions – more than can be mustered from the United States alone currently.
This past week Google put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting talented developers. On January 13th the tech behemoth announced they are pledging $250,000 to United We Dream — a workplace development organization meant to assist immigrant youth in the United States. Immigrant youth were previously protected from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) and given a path to citizenship under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (“DREAM Act”).
The move to assist immigrant youth entering the tech workplace goes hand in hand with Google’s efforts to support the agenda of the incoming Biden administration. Biden’s team has signified that they plan to address immigration issues early on in their term and have already indicated they plan to reinstate DREAM Act protections of undocumented aliens and allow for a path to citizenship for undocumented youth in any further immigration legislation passed.
The tech industry is eager for immigration reform given the direct impact it has on their workplace, as a significant number of work visas are given in the STEM fields. Silicon Valley as a whole is cautiously optimistic with the democrats leading both chambers of Congress as well as the White House as they perceive the party to be more sympathetic to immigration when it comes to the tech industry. In contrast, the Trump administration has been extremely hostile to immigration efforts including having placed an outright ban on new H-1B and L-1 workers in June 2020, citing the need to protect American jobs. This policy however was tone-deaf to the needs of the tech industry, which maintained low unemployment numbers even during the height of the pandemic.
American tech companies heavily rely on employees with H1B immigrant visas as they require an abundance of highly skilled workers to staff their company—more highly skilled workers than are available in the United States right now. In 2019 alone Google was granted 9,000 H1B visas for its workers. Many, if not most, were for developers. The tech industry strongly supports H1B and other forms of skilled immigration as an influx of skilled foreign workers is a necessity for them to remain competitive in a cutthroat industry.
Under the Trump administration, H1B regulations were additionally changed, with a new law (effective March 2021) replacing the random selection process with a wage-based selection process. This new rule effectively prioritizes visas for employees with higher salaries. Though they have the power to reverse the rule change, the incoming Biden Administration is expected to continue the Trump Administration’s efforts with regards to how the H1B lottery is conducted. This rule is beneficial to developers as it allows businesses to strategically plan their workforce. Further, it allows for the foreign workers to receive a competitive market salary for the skilled work they will be bringing to the table.
While there are many important and time-sensitive things on the incoming Biden Administration’s agenda, the tech industry is eager to see permanent reforms in the immigration space as we believe a competitive workforce is the backbone of the technology industry. Developers hold the jobs of the future, and setting them up for long-term success is something that should be championed, especially as America works to rebuild its economy in a post-COVID world.