H-1B Visa Policy Remains Unclear for Tech Companies

March 2, 2017 - 2 minutes read

While the Trump administration has made no bones about their policy plans for illegal and unskilled immigrants, immediate plans for overhauling highly-skilled immigration via H–1B visas remains unclear. This is bad news for app developers, since it’s actually an area that needs serious attention — between the lottery-style assignment system and the ease of abuse for larger companies, the system is decidedly broken.

H–1B visas create an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation in overhaul because the problems they pose affect every group involved in some negative way. For companies, the system is unfair because it prioritizes access for larger companies, who are often keen to abuse the system as a source of cheap, low-commitment engineering talent. In a sense, it’s often seen as a glorified, unethical interning system. For US workers, it’s unfair because it fills seats that otherwise would be open to permanent workers with a rotating cast of outside talent. And of course it’s a bad deal for the workers themselves, who only have access to the program via an apparent lottery system, and are left with no bargaining power when it comes to pay, lodging, and other basic needs provided by a short-term employer.

Part of the reason that reforms have failed in the past is that creating a win-win for all parties is pretty complex. San Diego app developers (most recently under Obama’s watch as proposed reforms sputtered out in Congress, getting pulled in last-second with little thought to a more general reform bill.

“I support comprehensive high-skilled reform … but there’s a difference between plugging a leak and building a better ship,” said California lawmaker Darrell Issa … simplicity may be the best way to at least get a partial fix.”

Mobile app developers and lawmakers on both sides of the party line are eager to see how reform can change the visa system in a way that benefits both companies and workers—wherever they hail from.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,