After President Donald Trump’s administration attempted to ban seven countries from entering the United States, the next step towards changing the American immigration policy might be targeting visas for foreign workers, according to Bloomberg. If these changes are implemented and it becomes more difficult for employers to hire foreign workers, it could change the way in which American companies, such as Microsoft and Amazon, recruit talented workers.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa applications are submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The visas, which allow foreign workers to legally be employed in the United States, have been in high demand over the last few years.
According to CNN, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 236,000 applications in 2016, which is 3,000 more than received in 2015 and nearly 65,000 more than received in 2014. The same article indicates that each year, only 85,000 workers are being selected from the lottery and are granted with the work permit. Out of the whole pool, 20,000 visas are awarded only to workers who have a Master’s Degree.
Many U.S. companies, especially tech companies from Silicon Valley, have a high demand for highly skilled foreign workers. According to CNN, some of the businesses even indicate that the H-1B visa program helps the American economy and without the many perspective employees staying in the country, many foreign workers could take their ideas and companies elsewhere.
Additionally, a recent study conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy indicated that more than 50 percent of the United States’ most prominent privately held companies in which their overall worth is equal to $1 billion or more have at least one foreign founder.
However, even though the statistics indicate that acquiring skilled workers from other countries is beneficial to the U.S. economy, some Americans perceive immigrant workers solely as those who take jobs away from Americans.
Nevertheless, in an interview with the National Review, Microsoft founder and one of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates indicated that hiring foreign workers does not take jobs away from Americans, but instead, creates additional positions for them.
“A recent study shows for every H-1B holder that technology companies hire, five additional jobs are created around that person,” said Gates.
Having the H-1B visa program also has other benefits. According to Bloomberg, India’s technology companies, including big corporations such as Infosys, indicate that being able to have foreign workers within the United States prevents tech companies from looking elsewhere for cheap solutions and outsourcing work. Infosys even presented the company’s statement regarding their employees working in the U.S.
“We continue to hire and invest locally. However, given the skill shortages in the U.S. and the availability of technically skilled workforce in various global markets, we also rely upon visa programs to supplement these skills,” said the company’s representative.
One of the most important parts of this statement is pointing out the issue of skill shortages in the United States. Apparently, there are many positions that remain unfilled because there are not enough people in the country that are qualified for them. According to The Chopras, the positions usually require technical knowledge and include but are not limited to computer system analysts, software engineers, web developers, and many more.
H-1B visas are serving as a solution to this problem because they allow the companies that need qualified workers to find them in countries other than the U.S. Such a solution brings benefits to the American economy because rather than outsourcing the job, the employers are able to provide their workers with a legal job in the U.S. In such a case, the workers pay taxes in America rather than in their home countries.
Nevertheless, the visa program is intended to allow American companies to primarily acquire highly skilled workers in case of skill shortages. The main issue that might arise due to this fact is whether or not the workers that are hired by companies in the U.S. are actually more qualified than American workers.
If the latter is untrue, the visa program is misused and it is possible that President Trump’s new plan will address this issue and bring relevant changes. Even though the outcome is unknown, experts continue to debate about what can happen if obtaining the visas becomes more difficult.
“Whatever specific changes are implemented, they are likely to add to the expenses for India’s technology companies. That may accelerate a shift to new kinds of services, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence,” said Raja Lahiri, partner at the Mumbai-based consultancy Grant Thornton India, according to Bloomberg.