There’s been a lot of buzz lately about President Trump potentially overhauling existing work-visa programs such as H-1B, which would have a significant effect on how tech companies source employees.
How does the tech community feel about those potential changes? According to a new survey from Spiceworks, some 67 percent of 429 respondents said they were in favor of H-1B visa reforms. Another 24 percent indicated they weren’t sure, while 9 percent said they weren’t in favor of changes.
That survey followed up another one from Spiceworks in which they asked tech workers if H-1B reforms would impact their organization. Around 71 percent of the 260 respondents said “no,” while 16 percent said “not sure,” and 13 percent said “yes.”
Given the relatively small sample sizes, it’s debatable whether the opinions expressed in these surveys are representative of the tech industry as a whole. And within the industry, there’s a lot of debate over the work-visa system in its current form. As Spiceworks pointed out in a note accompanying the most recent survey, supporters of visa reform believe that some tech companies abuse the current system enough to warrant significant changes.
“Opponents of changes to the H-1B visa system worry that raising barriers to entry for highly-skilled foreign workers is essentially ‘kicking out the best and brightest minds’ and ‘closing off avenues to bring in talented, diverse employees’ that help the American economy grow,” Spiceworks added. “Opponents of reform are also quick to point out that many new tech jobs and businesses have been created by the likes of Elon Musk (born in South Africa) and Sergey Brin (born in Russia).”
Meanwhile, a new H-1B reform bill on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives proposes eliminating the “per country” cap on the visas, and raising the minimum salary for some visa holders from $60,000 to $130,000. Companies where the number of H-1B holders make up more than 15 percent of the workforce—so-called “dependent employers”—would avoid that wage hike if they could prove their visa program doesn’t displace domestic workers.
During his Presidential campaign, President Trump declared the H-1B visa “very, very bad for workers” and suggested the U.S. “should end it.” But the contours of his actual visa-reform program remain unclear at this juncture.
In any case, it seems (at least based on Spiceworks’ survey data) that tech pros are interested in H-1B reform, even if many of them don’t think those reforms will have much (if any) impact on their organization.