Posted on February 7, 2023

Big Tech Reshaped Immigration Policy to Recruit Global Talent

Isaiah Reynolds, Insider, February 6, 2023

For nearly a decade, Silicon Valley has worked to sway the political pendulum of immigration policy.

Since 2013, some of the highest-valued companies in the world have pumped millions of dollars into lobbying efforts, including immigration policies that support their dominance over the limited number of  “high-skilled worker” visas {snip}

The H-1B visa category was introduced in 1990 as a way for employers to advocate for foreign-born professionals to occupy “specialty” positions in emerging industries like engineering and medical sciences. At the time, the cap was set to 65,000 visas for employment that required at least a bachelor’s degree, or the equivalent. The H-1B visa cap has remained relatively the same aside from an additional 20,000 visas allocated for master’s or doctorate holders in 2006, despite massive changes in labor market and industry demands in the decades since.


Google, Meta, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft spent nearly $70 million in federal lobbying in 2022. That number isn’t so surprising as the past year set a precedent in Big Tech pushback with emerging legislation that proposes increased privacy protections, content moderation, and retribution for corporate infringements. Lobbying groups like the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which represents corporations including Meta, Alphabet, and Twitter, ramped up its highest spending in the past 7 years in 2022.

Big Tech has not only relied on global talent to maintain their demanding business endeavors but dominates the majority of the skilled-labor allowed into the country. In 2017, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, and Google were in the top 10 employers for approved H-1B visa petitions, according to a National Foundation for American policy report. In 2021, nearly 70% of H-1B visa petition approvals went to “computer-related” occupations. With enough resources and access to top immigration lawyers, Big Tech has been able to receive approvals for nearly all of their H-1B visa petitions in past years, monopolizing most of the foreign-born technical workers.


The recent waves of layoffs, however, have disparately impacted some of the immigrants recruited by these corporations. Laid off immigrant workers on H-1B visas have a 60 day grace period to secure another sponsorship or leave the country.


Many H-1B visa holders are stuck — yearslong delays and unprecedented backlogs to apply and receive Permanent Residency Cards leave workers precariously bound to their employers and new obstacles are erected with each wave of layoffs. Notably, many visa holders file the Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) through their employers as the first step to move from visa holder to permanent resident. However, after recent mass layoffs at Google, the company is pausing any future PERM applications {snip}