According to a new survey, tech’s reliance on H-1B visa workers might boil down to the attitudes of those in Silicon Valley.
The Mercury News queried Bay Area residents about the visa, and the results are pretty striking: some 71 percent of those queried think the number of H-1B visas doled out annually should be kept the same or increased, while 7 percent had no opinion. (Of those 71 percent, 28 percent think the number should actually be increased.)
That means a mere 22 percent felt the quantity of foreign worker visas should be decreased. Some 38 percent say H-1B workers provide “critical skills” that companies cannot find in domestic employees. And 44 percent say H-1B workers fill skills gaps caused by a “shortage of qualified workers” stateside.
Some 23 percent think H-1B workers “take jobs that would otherwise be filled by qualified American workers.” Meanwhile, 21 percent of tech workers (defined by the survey as “current or former tech employees or those with relatives in tech”) thought that H-1B visas took jobs from qualified American workers.
Meanwhile, the federal government has taken incremental steps to adjust the H-1B program, despite President Trump’s campaign-trail promises of massive reform. For example, the White House has attempted to limit H-4 visas, which go to the spouses of H-1B visa holders; this limits those spouses’ ability to find gainful employment stateside. In addition, a new H-1B visa rule says employees must fill a specialty niche.
Despite these maneuvers, however, the overall number of H-1B visas filed and accepted has gone up during Trump’s time in office. For every 100 workers, Silicon Valley has 2.2 H-1B visa holders. Washington D.C. (and surrounding areas such as Arlington, Virginia) have 2 per 100 employees, suggesting that demand for the visa also remains high in other tech hubs.
The Mercury News poll shows 78 percent feel H-1B visa holders contribute positively to the Bay Area economy; the same percentage think documented immigrants contribute positively to the local economy. The percentage of those who feel positively about immigration only drops when residents were queried about undocumented immigrants (51 percent believe they have a positive influence on the economy).