Do you know the words to “O Canada”, the Canadian national anthem? If you work in tech, maybe you should. Here they are. As President Trump’s plan to curtail the popular H-1B visa program gains momentum, our loss may be other countries’ gain.
Recruiters: This is Just the First Shot Fired Across the Bow
The storm force gale blowing from the executive office towards immigrants and, in particular, those working here on temporary visas has the tech industry concerned about its future here in the U.S. And nowhere are those fears more pronounced than in the San Francisco Bay Area, the historic home of the tech industry.
“The president’s incendiary executive order on immigration may have named seven Muslim-majority nations, but the administration’s posturing toward immigrants is reverberating with a broader group of workers,” the San Francisco Chronicle quoted one local recruiter as saying. The article Unease Over Immigration Hurts Tech Recruiting highlighted the reluctance of worried tech workers to change jobs because of the complications it could cause for them and their families with their immigration status.
Typically, tech workers change jobs as they look to get in on the ground floor of a start-up that may hit it big or join a successful company that’s planning to develop a new product. But now the climate of uncertainty may jeopardize start-ups’ chances at getting the tech talent they need to launch and larger companies’ abilities to staff their projects with tech engineering talent.
Workers are worried that President Trump’s actions against immigrants are “not just a temporary thing,” said another tech recruiter. “They’re worried that this is a deeper-seated issue,” he said. “If you look at the deeper motivation on this, this is the first shot across the bow.”
U.S. Innovation Scored Big From Innovation
Restrictions on H-1B visas could hamper the tech growth engine that has helped bolster the U.S. economy. Silicon Valley companies, long dependent on foreign workers, are bracing for changes to immigration policy that will limit their workforce. About two-thirds of the workers in computer and mathematical professions were born outside the U.S., according to the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, the San Jose Mercury News recently reported.
The H-1B program at present lets approximately 85,000 highly skilled foreign workers enter the country every year. About 70 percent of these workers come from India, based on a 2014 Homeland Security report cited by the Mercury News. China comes in second according to Paysa data analysis.
Besides just filling the rank and file that grind out code for tech companies, some immigrants occupy the CEO office. The Wall Street Journal reports that immigrants founded 51% of the billion dollar start-ups in the U.S.
Several major tech companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Tesla exist because of foreign-born entrepreneurs. The founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar, Fortune reported, was born in Paris to parents who fled their from Iran, a country on Trump’s travel ban. And Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant. Syria is also on the banned countries list.
One of the major players who helped make Silicon Valley what it is today is Indian-born Vinod Khosla. The Stanford grad helped found Sun Microsystems in 1982. His Menlo Park-based VC firm Khosla Ventures manages over $1 billion’s worth of investor capital.
Where the Most H-1B Workers Are – What Companies and What Cities
Where are the H-1B workers now? Who’s got the most? Well, if you bicycled around the Googleplex, you’d see a lot of them hard at work. Google is the highest ranking Paysa company with the most H-1B workers. Ranked as the third top tech company in the U.S., it has 4,785 H-1B employees. Apple, ranked 12th by Paysa, has 1,656. Amazon with 2,547 and Microsoft, with 5,029 are also high ranking Paysa companies with large numbers of staff here with H-1B visas. Interestingly, the accounting firm Ernst and Young U.S. has 4,511 H-1B visa holders working for them.
No city in the U.S. has more H-1B people than New York City with 39,788 according to Paysa data. Houston is second with 16,372 and San Francisco third with 15,657. But if you add San Jose’s 10,772, Sunnyvale’s 8,531 and Mountain View’s 7,455, it brings the Northern California region’s total to 42,415 – the biggest in the country.
What occupations do they hold? Except for Aziz Ansari, they tend not to be stand-up comedians. Or ballet dancers, bartenders or kindergarten teachers. A whopping 121,239 are software developers – the most of any occupation. After that comes 98,756 computer analysts and 81,822 computer programmers. Those are the big three with tens of thousands more employed in other stem occupations.
Bye Bye Miss American Pie For H-1B Tech Workers?
Spurned by the U.S., tech workers from overseas will find a warm welcome in other countries eager to profit from the intellectual capital these workers bring. One of these countries is our neighbor to the north. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s very different stance on immigration has not gone unnoticed by tech firms.
According to reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, many tech firms may be opening offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Besides being more welcoming to foreign workers, Vancouver also has the advantage of being in the same time zone as California. This adds incentive to companies seeking to ensure that they can keep their tech teams intact. Cisco Systems, Salesforce, Slack and Zenefits already have offices in Vancouver.
A new Vancouver firm set up to facilitate companies moving north called True North is seeing immediate success. “Although True North has been officially open for business for less than two weeks, its website has racked up tens of thousands of page views, and the company is just beginning to process the inquiries,” according to the Chronicle.
O Canada, indeed.
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