The goal of this post is to clarify the implications of the latest developments in Washington D.C while also expanding on how the perceived divide between STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) graduates from U.S universities and H-1B/L-1 visa holders on projects from Indian IT firms is only going to get bigger.
1) The tech sector continues to stay very aggressive – Major technology employers like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have been huge proponents of increasing the H-1B visa quota and making the Green card process shorter. In the last week we found out how aggressive. Mark Zuckerberg who has stayed out of hot-button political issues is preparing to make a huge statement on immigration reform according to multiple news reports such as this one. Stories such as this also call out how much bipartisan lobbying is ongoing on the issue of more H-1B and faster turnaround times for green card applicants.
Like I mentioned earlier, work visas for a simpler green card process for STEM graduates has unique bipartisan backing and popularity in Congress in this day and age. And with a hugely popular technology sector continuing a unified push with influential voices, it looks inevitable that significant reform in favor of STEM graduates is but a matter of time this year. As I see it today, the reform will make it easier for STEM graduates to get an H-1B visa (by doubling the total # of available visas), easier to get a green card(by speeding up the process and stages for the same), reduce wait times for both and cost more money (in fees for both employer and employee).
Here below courtesy the Migration institute is a graph showing how long the wait times for H-1Bs have gotten and why this is a pet project for technology companies today.
2) Universities are lobbying hard – The Sunlight foundation which tracks lobbying across Washington D.C to measure who is funding what politicians for what political causes did a deep-dive on the lobbying behind immigration. One of the surprising findings for me was the extent of lobbying that schools and universities have done for science and technology majors. This tells me that universities which have seen their grants, endowments and public funding take huge hits during the recession are looking to recoup a bunch back on the backs of increased foreign students. This validates my original hypothesis from two posts ago that while things are likely to get easier and more deterministic for STEM graduates, the fees are likely to increase too. Washington is looking desperately for revenue at a time of immense distaste for taxes of any kind and no source of revenue is more popular than immigrants hoping to make it big and hoping to become citizens.
While this portion has not been outlined yet, we will see significant indicators on the fees metrics in the next week or so when the Senate’s version of the bill is released in its entirety.
3) The perceived divide gets bigger Rightly or wrongly, a huge divide exists in the perception among politicians and corporations of India born STEM graduates from U.S universities and those visiting the U.S on business projects from Indian IT firms. For reasons partly attributable to the abuse of L-1 visa quotas and falsification of resume’s individuals visiting the U.S on behalf of IT firms even for a few years (not months) are not given the same place that STEM graduates from universities are. And all signs point to the fact that this will only increase as immigration reform 2013 moves forward.
Corporations, labor and politicians all have incentives to appear to not promote outsourcing and those on L-1 or visiting on H-1B are surprisingly viewed as being part of the outsourcing bucket. Current reform is expected to make it harder for these folks to get in and out of the green card line. It is also expected to reduce the number of visas for people in this category as the visas needed to spruce up the overall STEM numbers needs to come from some where.
So that is where we stand today. A lot more news is expected in the next few days as reform kicks in to high gear with the Senate version of a bill which will form a large chunk (60-70%) of the final bill. Stay tuned!