Silicon Valley is less likely to believe H-1B workers are stealing US jobs

Letting foreign talent in.
Letting foreign talent in.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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Nearly 45% of Americans are convinced that H-1B visa-holders are eating into jobs meant for local workers, but there’s one part of the country where these immigrant workers are far more popular: California’s Bay Area, home to the likes of Google and Facebook.

Less than a quarter of Bay Area residents—23% to be exact—believe H-1B workers are poaching their jobs, according to a survey by non-profit advocacy group Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) and Mercury News. Over 1,800 registered voters in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties participated in the survey.

Nearly four in 10 Bay Area residents feel H-1B workers, who can live and work in the US for up to six years, contribute critical skills that companies cannot find at home, the survey found. Nationally, only 30% of US citizens feel the same way.

Current and former tech employees, as well as those who had relatives working in the tech industry, thought H-1B workers were even more indispensable given America’s chronic skills shortage.

Nearly 80% of Bay Area voters surveyed said that highly-skilled immigrants, like H-1B workers, have a positive impact on the region’s economy and its quality of life. Just 4% felt otherwise.

Despite the favourable sentiment in the community, 43 % voted for the number of visas allocated to remain unchanged. Annually, 85,000 H-1B visas are given out, with 20,000 of them being reserved for those with with advanced degrees.

Overhauling the H-1B worker visa program has been on US president Donald Trump’s agenda since the beginning of his term. Over the last year, applicants have been faced with many hardships, such as tighter qualifying criteriaburdensome paperwork, and targeted site visits to uncover visa abuses. The administration is also trying to revoke work permits for H-4 visa holders—the spouses of H-1B workers. In particular, Indians have been disproportionately hit since they receive over three-quarters of the H-1B visas and hold nearly 80% of the H-4 visas.