Jan 31, 2017

Tech firms aren't biggest users of H-1B visas

The issue

The Trump administration is looking to overhaul the worker-visa program used by tech companies to hire high-skilled foreign workers for technical jobs they can't fill with Americans (aka H-1B) . The fixes are aimed at ensuring the program isn't used to bring in cheaper overseas labor to displace U.S. workers.

The facts
Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

When companies hire workers with an H-1B visa, they have to provide notice, through a government filing, of the H-1B workers' wages and work locations. While labor filings don't directly correlate with number of workers, it reflects anticipated work locations for their total H-1B populations. The largest number of such filings are not filed by tech companies. Outsourcing firms Wipro, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services account for the largest number, according to Labor Department data. The outsourcing firms rely heavily on H-1B visas to bring in workers, largely from India, to help staff corporate IT departments. These companies are known as "H-1B dependent," meaning more than 15 percent of their workforces hold visas, and account for the largest numbers of visa labor filings. (Nasscom, the trade group that represents Indian IT firms, has said it fully complies with immigration laws.)

Why it matters

Possible new restrictions on the program or a re-prioritized lottery system could change how tech companies and India-based IT consulting firms find technical workers. They could be required to hire Americans first and show they can't find the necessary talent at home to be eligible for visas. If companies do need to hire workers from overseas, preference may be given to companies paying the highest salaries. Congress also is working on reforms to tighten requirements.

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