Here is a review of where things stand and what could happen both short and long term.
A Little Background
There is no denying that immigrants have been an integral part of the technology sector transformation over the past decade, having started more than one-half of the current U.S. start-ups valued at $1 billion or more, according to a study by the National Foundation for American Policy. In addition, each of these companies has added, on average, a robust 760 jobs. The study also reports that over 70 percent of key management and product development positions at these companies are held by immigrants, one of the largest being the ubiquitous ride-sharing company, Uber.
H-1B visas, allowing foreign skilled workers entrance to the United States, act as a sharp bottleneck to additional technology growth, with hundreds of thousands of applicants fighting for just 85,000 slots – 65,000 of which are for first-time applicants and 20,000 for individuals with a master’s degree or above. Even by maintaining the status quo – seemingly unlikely in the current political climate – technology companies still face massive skilled labor shortages. According to a 2016 article in The Boston Globe, “The war for tech talent escalates”, the fight for technology talent is so intense, that companies are offering their employees referral fees of $10,000 all the way up to $30,000 for software engineers and designers.
LogMeIn, one of the area’s hottest growth companies is chronically searching for 50 to 100 tech hires. “Technical professionals are in incredible short supply and there’s a huge need,” says LogMeIn’s Dena Upton. And new competition is emerging from growing technology centers like Phoenix, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Austin, promising even more intense talent wars in the years ahead.
The President’s First Moves
Against this backdrop, President Trump is already beginning to tackle immigration reform a few days into his term. He already has announced via executive order initiatives targeting illegal immigration and refugees:
The Discussion Continues
That is a busy week by any measure, leading to wide-ranging speculation about all aspects of modifying visa regulations for both existing workers, as well as new applicants. While there is no clear consensus among market-watchers and economists about Trump’s next moves, here are a few of the topics being heavily discussed:
Important to reiterate that all of these items are proposed and nothing has been passed. Thus, Envoy-affiliated attorneys may be unable to advise on specific impacts but as soon as any of these potential matters become law, we will be reaching out with updates and advice.
While We Wait
Many employers are voicing their concerns and advocating for policies that will continue to encourage innovation and entrepreneurism. Lobbyist teams comprised of leaders like – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and a veritable “who’s who” of other technology leaders have formed the FWD.us organization to lobby against immigration regulatory changes that adversely affect innovation. On the FWD.us website, there are a plethora of ways to get involved, including joining local chapters, contacting your political representatives and telling your personal stories online.
The ACLU has advised that anyone who is stuck at an international airport and can’t get on a flight back to the U.S. should call the ACLU at 415-621-2488.
Here is another resource with helpful information.
CBP also posted a Q&A
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