Technology firms are bracing for bad news as President Donald Trump enacts his "America first" agenda and works to curb immigration.They worry that restrictions on H-1B visas could reduce their access to the world's most talented employees while increasing costs.
H-1B visas have served tech companies well since the early 1990s.They allow qualified technology workers to live in the United States for the purposes of employment.They typically earn much less than similarly qualified Americans – and therefore save tech companies a bundle.
The U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Service – a branch of the Department of Homeland Security - issues about 85,000 H-1B visas per year.Residents who hold the visas can apply for green cards, which has made the H-1B program a popular path to permanent U.S.residency for qualified immigrants.
The Trump administration has indicated that it intends to make changes to the H-1B program, but as yet there are no details.
According to research firm Goldman Sachs, about 70 percent of the H-1B visas issued in 2015 when to programmers, designers, and engineers from India.Substantial numbers were also issued to tech workers from China, Mexico, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, and Japan.
One of the factors making H-1B workers attractive to Silicon Valley employers is that they have a low minimum salary requirement - $60,000.This means it is often possible to pay immigrant workers substantially less than Americans with similar qualifications.
Experts speculate that the Trump administration may raise the minimum pay for H-1B workers.That would reduce the wage gap, making American tech workers more competitive and potentially reducing the number of foreign workers who are issued visas.James Schneider, a market analyst at Goldman Sachs, says that "total costs for IT services companies could rise by 3 percent-14 percent, depending on the reforms."