Foreign citizens make up 71% of Silicon Valley tech workforce

While the Trump administration and the right wing Republicans continue to mount their attack against foreign workers in this country, a new report has found that Silicon Valley would be lost without foreign-born technology workers.

About 71 percent of tech employees in the Valley are foreign born, compared to around 50 percent in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward region, according to a new report based on 2016 census data.

Many foreign tech workers are employed under the controversial H-1B visa — intended for specialty occupations — which has become a flashpoint in the U.S. cage fight over immigration, with opponents claiming it lets foreigners steal American jobs. Several companies and UC San Francisco have been accused of abusing the visa program by using it as a tool to outsource Americans’ jobs to workers from far-away lands.

Although 2016 data released by the federal government last year showed that outsourcing companies — mostly from India — raked in the bulk of H-1B visas, Google took more than 2,500 and Apple took nearly 2,000 to hire foreign workers, about 60 percent of them holding master’s degrees.

“The H1-B process is not just complicated — it’s also quite expensive to sponsor an H1-B visa worker, a cost larger companies may be more willing to absorb,” the report pointed out. Legal blog UpCounsel puts the cost of the H-1B process at $10,000 to $11,000 per employee.

The report did not include a breakdown for Silicon Valley of how many foreign-born tech workers are U.S. citizens, versus visa holders. But the paper’s research indicated that 63 percent of Seattle’s foreign-born tech workers were not American citizens. Applications for foreign visas for work at other large American technology companies, according to a recent analysis of Department of Labor records covering eight major tech businesses between October 2015 and October 2016.

Applications submitted by contractors accounted for half of the H-1B visa applications for jobs at PayPal Holdings Inc.’s headquarters, 43 percent of those on Microsoft Corp.’s campus, 29 percent at EBay Inc.’s headquarters, and about a quarter of those at the Googleplex. At Facebook Inc., contracting companies submitted 12 percent of the applications for jobs at its headquarters. According to the analysis, Apple Inc. barely relies on contractors who employ workers through H-1B program to staff its headquarters, and Amazon.com Inc. doesn’t appear to use them at all. The contractors included Infosys and Wipro.

The H-1B visas are not only used in Silicon Valley. They are used across the nation. Several other large and small companies continue to use this program that allows 65,000 highly-skilled workers to be hired each year to fill the position that are not normally able to be filled by American workers.

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