Smaller Tech Hubs See a Rise in Work-Based Immigration

When people talk about tech immigration, they’re often thinking of the major tech hubs in Silicon Valley and New York City, and the companies that apply for hundreds (if not thousands) of visas per year. However, some new data suggests that the latest growth in tech immigration is centered in smaller cities and up-and-coming tech hubs.

Envoy Global and New American Economy recently issued a sweeping report on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy and specialized immigration. Its conclusions should seem pretty straightforward to anyone who regularly monitors government data around immigration: “Data from Labor Certification Applications (LCAs) for foreign skilled workers shows that employers of computer-related or professional service workers continued to seek permission to hire foreign workers through the H-1B visa program… Their motivation to do so even during the worst of the pandemic is evidenced by unemployment data showing that the labor market at the top end of the skill spectrum remains extremely tight.”

But not all regions of the country are created equal, as you can see from the following chart that compares LCA activity between fiscal years 2019 and 2020. For this data, the report’s writers relied on U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) data on the number of Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) filed for H-1B specialty workers”:

In major tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, New York City, and Washington, DC, the rate of LCAs actually declined, while it picked up noticeably in just one major tech hub (Seattle) and several cities with smaller but relatively significant tech scenes (such as Charlotte and Austin). 

Is this a sign that smaller tech hubs will take over an ever-larger portion of tech immigration? It’s hard to tell. For starters, the major tech hubs such as Silicon Valley still utilize an overwhelming portion of visas, by gross numbers; it will take quite some time for the smaller cities to catch up on that front. Second, the companies that utilize the most visas still do most of their business (and have their biggest offices) in these larger cities, and such trends can take years (and often decades) to subvert.

It’s also worth mentioning that the mature tech hubs tend to pay visa-holders more than other cities, as you can see from this H-1B chart generated via DOL data:

Nonetheless, it’s clear that up-and-coming tech hubs such as Austin utilize a large number of visas. The big question is whether they’ll use even more as they expand their local tech scenes, or if future policies will curtail that growth. 

2 Responses to “Smaller Tech Hubs See a Rise in Work-Based Immigration”

  1. Jake Leone

    When the pandemic first hit, Facebook put out a memo stating that (“their skilled and difficult to find”) workforce would have to take a pay cut if they moved out of the Bay Area.

    Reality, Facebook executive spent billions on new high rise offices in Menlo Park. A remote workforce makes that high level executive decision look really bad. Hence, take it out on a skilled workforce that Facebook publicly says it has a hard time finding.

    Facebook says, to the public, that it has a hard time finding workers. At least that’s the meme they want to sell to the public (and for the bought off press to propagandize). But in DOJ vs Facebook, Facebook employees admitted to the DOJ investigators, that:

    – For every STEM/IT job that Facebook posts on its own jobs website, Facebook receives hundreds (~200) STEM/IT resumes.

    – Of those ~200 candidates, 30+ are found to be fully qualified, and Facebook says it would hire them if they actually the STEM/IT jobs that Americans are being “allowed” to compete for.

    – Facebook, then further admitted to Federal investigators, that the foreign workers undergoing the PERM certification, are not as qualified as the ~30 per job ad, local STEM/IT workers. But Facebook, as a policy, never forwards the resumes to the managers involved in the PERM process.

    Keep in mind, the PERM process is meant to provide evidence as to whether their are (or are not) local STEM/IT workers that are qualified for the job being held by the foreign workers undergoing the PERM process. Facebook lied (2600+ times over just 1.5 year period) that is could not find equally or better qualified local STEM/IT workers. When the reality is Facebook found thousands of local STEM/IT candidates that were better qualified than the foreign workers Facebook was protecting in a fraudulent PERM process.

    The companies that are having a hard time finding workers are the startups. No one wants to work for a startup, because a short period (< 6 months) on a resume looks really bad (unless you are interning). Also, how are you going to swing that big jumbo loan when you don't have a reliable work record.

    Big Tech companies offer one thing that a startup never can, a chance for a long term job. Big Tech companies are not having any issues finding workers (see DOJ vs Facebook, on the DOJ website). In fact they find 30x more fully qualified local STEM/IT workers than they can hire. Foreign workers offer Big Tech something a local STEM/IT candidate cannot, an indentured worker that can't leave the job, forever, until Green Card day. And hence the reason why people from some countries (with current insane Green Card wait times) are actually preferred. I mean logically, if you really wanted the best and the brightest, you would be looking equally in Europe, Israel, and other Tech hubs, rather than freshers/grads from 1 particular country.

  2. I don’t think there are many smaller tech hubs. If there are random USCIS site visits for each company visa filing on regular basis we would know the reality. Sadly, no more even basic verification’s now a days. File h/l and get max years visa.