Big Tech layoffs highlight how US fails immigrant workers
Ten thousand among those who have been laid off at Amazon, Meta, Salesforce and other greedy tech recruiters in recent months. But one group of workers has been shunned in particular: U.S. immigrants with H-1B visas for skilled workers.
Those highly sought-after visas are given to employer-sponsored immigrants to the United States, and the limited supply is heavily utilized by big tech companies. But if a worker is laid off, they must get funding from another company within 60 days or leave the country.
It’s a particularly difficult situation as the big companies that sponsor most of the tech-related visas are also the ones laying off and freezing hiring. Amazon and Meta, which have jointly announced the layoffs of at least 29,000 employees in recent months, each applied to sponsor more than 1,000 new H-1B visas in fiscal year 2022, according to Department of Commerce data. Immigration and Naturalization of the United States.
U.S. dominance in science and technology has long depended on a steady flow of talent from abroad. However, the H-1B system — and U.S. immigration as a whole — hasn’t evolved much since the last major immigration bill in 1986. Now, the economic turmoil of the Great Depression The translation is reshaping the tech giants and highlighting the system’s new limitations. It shows that workers, companies, and perhaps America as a whole are losing out.
“Because our system is overwhelmed, these visa holders have built a life here over the years, they have a home, children and personal and professional relationships that last for years. years,” said Linda Moore, president and chief executive officer of TechNet, an industry group. Lobbying groups include nearly all the major tech companies. “They’ve just been stuck in a system that gives them no clarity or certainty.”
Over the past decade, tech companies, often fierce competitors, have made unusually strong strides on H-1B immigration. They apply for a lot of visas, want to increase the annual supply of 85,000 visas, and have been lobbying to change the application process to make it easier for skilled workers to stay in the United States. H-1B visa holders can usually only stay for six years unless their employer sponsors them to become a U.S. permanent resident or green card holder.
That’s the path of Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, who is rarely outspoken on political issues but spoke up about his personal support for immigration reform. He has argued that both his personal success and the success of his company depend on the skilled immigration system.
Tech workers outside of the US also seem to love the H-1B, despite the system’s limitations. The visa provides a way for aspiring programmers to get closer to the heart of the global tech industry or leverage their skills to start a fresh start in the United States.
Nearly 70% of visas are for “computer-related” jobs. in fiscal year 2021, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and many of these workers eventually converted their visas to permanent residence in the United States. But due to restrictions on the number of applications for employment-based residency that are granted each year, it can take decades for immigrants from larger countries like India to receive their green cards, leaving many employed employment on H-1B is tied to one employer for many years. During that time, they are vulnerable to life-disrupting shocks like those faced by some immigrants during the recent tech layoffs.