- The Trump administration hinted this week that it may clamp down on temporary work visas for foreign employees, a move that would thwart their career plans and also narrow a significant hiring pipeline for Silicon Valley tech companies.
- Trump kept that option on the table as he imposed a 60-day suspension on the entry of immigrants seeking permanent US resident status, rather than the guest worker visas sought by many tech workers from abroad.
- “Companies need to start thinking about the impact on their foreign national employees and whether or not this results in any sort of interruption in work authorization and [business] continuity,” one immigration lawyer told Business Insider in an interview.
- These 11 tech giants stand to be hit hardest by a ban on immigration, according to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services department.
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Silicon Valley has long proven to be a haven for high-skilled immigrants. But companies based in the tech epicenter may lose a key source of skilled professionals if the Trump administration continues to tighten up its already-stringent regulations governing the H1B visas that permit foreigners to work temporarily in the United States.
President Trump kicked off speculation that the administration would be putting an end to foreign-worker jobs on Monday, after he tweeted that he would soon be issuing an executive order on a different immigration route. In a press conference the next day, he confirmed that the process of accepting new permanent immigrants would be suspended for 60 days.
While Trump stopped short of previewing possible regulations that might also hit the temporary work authorization visas of foreign employees, he still hinted on Tuesday that further measures to control the flow of workers into the United States may be implemented. His stated goal was to protect American workers from competition with non-citizens for available jobs.
That’s a familiar line of reasoning for the president, who has targeted the H1B visa program for years, claiming that companies use it to hire cheap, foreign workers instead of Americans.
Although any potential measures to curtail immigration remain murky, immigration lawyers are suggesting that both H1B-authorized employees and companies begin pondering the implications of such policy changes, while creating contingency plans.
“Depending on how expansive this immigration suspension is, companies need to start thinking about the impact on their foreign national employees and whether or not this results in any sort of interruption in work authorization and [business] continuity,” Hiba Anver, an immigration attorney at Erickson Immigration Group, told Business Insider in an interview after President Trump’s Monday tweet.
Companies in the tech industry may want to stay especially vigilant, given the industry’s reliance on foreign talent. Only 20% of full-time graduate students in computer science and electrical engineering are US citizens, so foreign workers have filled in that gap, according to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).
That means any proposed measures to curtail employment-based work authorization amid the coronavirus-driven recession will hit the tech industry especially hard — companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook sponsor a number of foreign workers to join their US teams.
One way to identify the tech companies most vulnerable to any proposed changes is to look at the number of initial H1B petitions approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services department. This figure represents the total number of new foreign workers who made it through the country’s lottery system to have a shot at applying for a three-year H1B visa.
Business Insider used government data on the number of new H1B petitions filed by companies during the 2019 fiscal year to compile a list of the tech companies that stand to be affected by any proposed immigration restrictions.
We also included each company’s US headquarters location, and the size of its total workforce (in many cases, this figure represents employees located around the world.)
However, the figures given below for new H1B petitions don’t necessarily provide a full picture of the number of foreign employees currently in each company’s workforce. That figure excludes the employees who have extended their US stays by asking their employers to help them renew their H1B visas, or to sponsor their green card applications.
The number of new H1B applications filed by each company may look relatively small compared to the total workforce, given that many of these companies also employ hundreds or thousands of people in their overseas offices.
But the numbers of US guest workers do multiply over the years, as foreign employees stay on at the company and choose to renew their visas. Preventing the hiring of 1,000 workers per year could have a disproportionately greater impact on the workforce, as foreign workers can stay on at a company for three years, and have the option to renew their visas. That is, unless the Trump administration cancels that option.
The top 11 American tech giants that could endure the greatest impact from any foreign work-authorization limitations are as follows:
Headquarters: Seattle, WA
Total employees: 750,000
Approved H1B petitions: 3,575
Headquarters: Mountain View, CA
Total employees: 118,899
Approved H1B petitions: 2,707
Headquarters: Seattle, WA
Approved H1B petitions: 1,706
Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA
Approved H1B petitions: 1,534
Headquarters: Armonk, New York
Employees: 381,100 (as of 2018)
Approved H1B petitions: 1,256
Headquarters: Cupertino, CA
Approved H1B petitions: 1,155
Headquarters: Santa Clara, CA
Approved H1B petitions: 1,014
Headquarters: San Jose, CA
Approved H1B petitions: 690
Headquarters: San Diego, CA
Approved H1B petitions: 652
Headquarters: Redwood City, CA
Approved H1B petitions: 563
Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
Approved H1B petitions: 491