Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

United States tech industry optimistic on H1B visa reforms

United States tech industry optimistic on H1B visa reforms

It's unclear how the program may change, but India's huge tech industry says America still has a shortage of skilled workers that the H-1B system was created to ease.

In his electoral campaign, President Donald Trump pledged to put "America First" and now he's gotten down to business by signing an Executive Order that directs federal agencies to review employment immigration laws. "Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans", Trump said.

The policy would have a "somewhat meaningful" impact on the USA steel industry, but "I'm kind of skeptical it even happens", Lee McMillan, an analyst at Clarksons Platou Securities, said in a telephone interview.

But critics say the program has been hijacked by staffing companies that use the visas to import foreigners - often from India - who will work for less than Americans.

"The order hinders the ability of American companies to attract talented employees, increases costs imposed on business, makes it more hard for American firms to compete in the worldwide marketplace and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations - and hire new employees - outside the United States", it further adds.

"It really is disconcerting", said Rogie Legaspi, who came to Baltimore from the Philippines in 2008 on an H-1B visa and now teaches life sciences at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School. "The H-1B program plays an important role in addressing this need, but it can be improved", Bradley said.

A 2016 analysis of U.S immigration data by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank backed by the labour movement, estimated that global outsourcing firms made up the majority of the top 10 applicants to the program from California. A spokesman for Snap-on said the company employs a "handful of associates under the H-1B visa program, and the majority of them hold advanced degrees". Government agencies can bypass US suppliers, for example, whose bids come in too high or if the required goods and services aren't available domestically.

Johns Hopkins University was certified to have more than 400 H-1B positions in Maryland in 2015, making it the largest employer of the workers in the state. Immigrant tech workers are likewise employed by thousands of Silicon Valley startup companies.

Figures of how many visas are issued by state weren't available, but a year ago the government cleared at least 41,182 foreign workers to be hired by MA companies, according to the U.S. Labor Department. But an H-1B review is overdue.

"But it also means employers can be at risk if they're not reviewing how competitive the salaries are for their foreign workers", she added.

Cutting off the supply of goods not made in the United States would create fresh problems for US companies, he said. "And these are companies that already operate worldwide". "Measures to protect American workers will not be successful if they are applied selectively". An official with the Department of Homeland Security said it is premature to discuss potential changes.

Government contracting "is a highly complex area, with lots of exceptions and exceptions to exceptions", says Stephanie Harden, a lawyer specializing in government contracts at Blank Rome LLP.

He says he began to rethink his beliefs about the tech industry's reliance on hiring skilled workers from overseas after major tech firms, including Google and Facebook, began to poach his employees.

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