Several trends shaped the tech support industry in 2017, including the rise of messaging apps for tech support and the increasing use of Al and chatbots for customer support. Industry experts are saying customer identity and access management (CIAM), augmented reality, and predictive analytics will shape this New Year. Now, attention has shifted to the new bipartisan plan for reforming the H-1B visa program.
The hope is that this reformation will be better for the tech industry than its predecessor. The H-1B program is a temporary (nonimmigrant) U.S. visa that allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. According to the American Immigration Council, jobs such as engineering, mathematics and technology often qualify. The initial duration of a H-1B visa is three years, which can be extended for a maximum of six years.
The expectation is that the bill by Californian Republican, Rep. Darrel Issa, will make some improvements that will help level the playing field for tech firms. Not just for giants like Google and Apple, but for the new entrepreneur and his or her tech startup. In general, these businesses have been struggling – and continue to struggle – to attract skilled workers in a tight labor market.
This program is especially important in places like the Bay Area. According to a 2017 report by Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an estimated 57 out of every 100 jobs in the region requiring a bachelor’s degree (or more) is filled by an individual not born in the U.S. Times Record News describes the situation: “Some outsourcing companies hiring workers for jobs in the United States use loopholes in the law to snag thousands of the limited number of visas. They then hire foreign workers at lower pay, often at the expense of U.S. workers.”
Unfortunately, tech companies are also guilty of this abuse of the program and the use of loopholes. The risk of a weakened H1-B program is that the U.S. will lose brilliant immigrant leaders. Consider, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Google co-founder Sergey Brin – just a couple of the countless examples.
Essentially, Issa’s legislation increases the minimum salary requirement for H1-B visas holders from $60,000 to $90,000 a year. This legislation also forbids companies from replacing American workers with foreign workers. In addition, the legislation seeks to redefine an “H-1B dependent company” – companies required to prove they tried to hire domestic workers. According to Issa, this will give small companies “a better chance to get the H-1B employee they want”.
While there is a lot of hope surrounding this legislation, it is not perfect. Issa’s bill does not address some of the most fundamental problems of the H-1B program. Specifically, limiting visas by country and how H-1B visas are prioritized. Even so, for an industry that struggles with rapid growth and other obstacles (e.g. “high-risk” categorization causes many companies to seek alternative services, like a tech support merchant account), this shift in the right direction has been very promising.
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