There’s a continuing tension here regarding the companies hiring American tech workers as opposed to hiring immigrant tech workers on work visas. Right now H-1B visas, which are immigration work visas, are capped at 65,000 per annum. In California and elsewhere, the process for these visas starts each year on April 1 when applications are submitted.
This past year the 65,000 were all gone by the third day. There are an additional 20,000 H-1B visas given to foreign students with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. Additionally, universities and nonprofit research organizations are exempt from a work visa cap. This brings the total number of H-1Bs much higher than the annual limits.
Each spring, employers across the country submit petitions for H-1B visas on behalf of foreign workers they wish to hire. This year, the cap was reached within three days of the April 1 opening date. When that happens, the H-1B process goes into a lottery system. Companies that submit thousands of H-1B petitions, usually in Silicon Valley, are the big winners.
Many smaller, local tech companies favor a higher cap on H-1B visas, as provided by the pending Immigration Reform Act. In the past, most of the work visas are taken by Silicon Valley hi-tech companies. Smaller companies say that there are not enough qualified American workers. It’s true that technology companies generally rely on specialized talent and employment immigration from all over the world.
However, American interests claim otherwise: they challenge the idea of a shortage of workers. Some claim that the new Act will increase or maintain our own unemployment problems, and that wages will be lower due to lower-paid foreign employees. One professor at Rutgers University says that he cannot find any evidence of a current shortage of tech workers.
In California that debate rages on, with the edge probably going to those who favor a significantly increased number of H-1B visas. That’s due to California’s deep-seated DNA in the hi-tech industries. It appears that the domestic supply will never be adequate enough to fill the multi-faceted, extremely specialized needs that go along with expanding international technologies.
Source: The Press Democrat, “Tapping tech talent overseas,” Martin Espinoza, June 23, 2013