Tech Companies Fret Over Possible H1-B Visa Overhaul
Policy Change Would Rob US of Future Tech Leaders, Says Professor
The discussion of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy has revolved in recent days around the ban he imposed on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, an executive order that has since been put on hold by federal courts.
The US tech industry weighed in against Trump’s ban, but they are also worried about a potential upcoming executive order that would reform the United States H-1-B visa program. A leaked draft of an executive order refers to impending changes to visa program for foreign tech workers.
The H-1B visa program brings 85,000 foreign tech workers into the US every year. Tech companies have been agitating for an increase to those numbers.
A forecast from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that IT employment in the US will grow 12 percent through 2024, faster than the average for other occupations. “These occupations are expected to add about 488,500 new jobs, from about 3.9 million jobs to about 4.4 million jobs from 2014 to 2024, in part due to a greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, more everyday items becoming connected to the Internet in what is commonly referred to as the ‘Internet of things,’ and the continued demand for mobile computing,” said the BLS report.
Greg Morrisett, dean of Computing and Information Science at Cornell University, says that if Trump’s immigration policies hinder high-skilled workers from entering the country, he will adversely affect the creation of future science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs.
“Steve Jobs’s father immigrated from Syria,” said Morrisett. “The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, immigrated from India. Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, immigrated from the Soviet Union.”
The BLS forecast predicts that over 70 percent of the jobs that will be created in STEM fields between now and 2020 will be in the tech industry, Morrisett noted. “Immigrants are often the leaders if not the founders of the companies that provide these jobs,” he added. “For American technology to be successful, it must appeal to the entire world. In particular, the markets in China and India are so big, that to remain competitive, in everything from cell phones to social media to robots, companies must cater to those markets, as well as America.”