By Bryan Jung
Recent layoffs in the American tech sector have sent hundreds of H-1B visa holders scrambling for new jobs, with thousands fearing the same chase.
Major tech firms have left many foreign tech workers with temporary work visas in the United States with only two months to find a job, or they will will be forced to leave the country, Bloomberg reported.
More than a dozen terminated H-1B workers recently spoke with Bloomberg, after requesting anonymity to prevent retaliation from former employers or to protect their job search efforts.
Unemployed H-1B holders are legally allowed to remain in the United States for only 60 days to find a new employer to sponsor them.
American tech companies have controversially relied on cheaper H-1B visa workers since the 1990s to meet their need for specialized workers in the industry, such as computer science and engineering, instead of more expensive and increasingly harder to find native-born employees.
The H-1B program was originally written to allow American companies to recruit foreign college-educated workers from technical fields, where there is a shortage of native hires.
However, Silicon Valley firms have been accused of abusing the program to replace American workers with cheap foreign tech labor.
The average salary for an H-1B program worker was $106,000 in the third quarter of 2022, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, well above the median salary of most Americans, while those at at top-tier tech firms like Meta, Salesforce, and Twitter make about $175,000, excepting generous bonuses and stock options.
Big Tech Starts to Downsize, Putting H1-B Workers’ Status in Jeopardy
Tech giants like Amazon, Lyft, Meta, Salesforce, Stripe, and Twitter have sponsored at least 45,000 H-1B workers over the past three years, according to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), compiled by Bloomberg.
The unemployed foreign-born tech workers are now complaining that they are receiving inadequate job-search guidance from the employers which formerly sponsored them.
Over the past couple of months, Silicon Valley firms have been terminating thousands of employees, as tech stocks take a hit.
According to Bloomberg, the latest round of job cuts at Meta and Twitter have alone affected at least 350 foreign resident employees who now are joining the thousands of other tech workers in a highly competitive labor market.
Some of these people have been living in America for years, with many paying their mortgages and student loans, with children in school, or are awaiting permanent U.S. citizenship.
The holidays are one of the toughest times for job seekers, as recruiting efforts tend to cease before Thanksgiving, with many employers have suspended hiring ahead of an anticipated downturn.
Desperate unemployed H-1B holders are turning to professional and social networks to find job referrals to avoid deportation.
Other temp visa workers are posting on social media job sites like LinkedIn in order to get responses for job openings in the United States and elsewhere.
The Foreign Tech Worker Market Begins to Tighten
The highly desired visas are issued by the U.S. government to the workers for three years, other than a work-related extension by the employees’ sponsors.
According to the law, the number of people being allowed to enter through the H-1B program was capped at 85,000 per year, with the market being heavily dominated by applicants from India.
Indians tend to be on temporary visas longer than other foreign nationals due a disproportionally longer wait time for permanent residency status.
Each nation is normally allowed a maximum annual quota of 7 percent for U.S. residency status regarding employment.
For example, there are almost half a million Indian nationals in the queue, but there are only about 10,000 green cards a year available.
That limit has led to a long wait time for the majority of applicants from India due to the massive number wishing to work from that country.
A CIS spokesperson told Bloomberg that the agency is exploring options on how to address challenges faced by certain nationalities and are committed to increasing access to benefits under the current administration.