Google puts weight behind H-1B visa reform
By Colleen Taylor, Contributing Editor - June 7, 2007
Google Inc. has thrown its considerable weight behind the skilled worker immigration cause, lobbying the United States Congress this week for H-1B visa reform.
H-1B visas allow foreign-born workers with specialized skills to work in the United States on a temporary basis. The visas have become a hot topic for debate, as they have proven to be increasingly coveted commodities in recent years. In April, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 for fiscal year 2008 just one day after starting the receipt of applications, marking the fifth year in a row that the cap has been reached before the start of the fiscal year. For fiscal 2007, it took under two months for the cap to be reached.
A Google executive, VP of People Operations Laszlo Bock, testified Wednesday before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration about the practical impact that the U.S. immigration system has on tech companies like Google.
Citing first-hand experience with valuable employees from outside of the United States, where Google has headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the company expressed strong support for a increase in the number of skilled foreign workers allotted visas. "Our experience with American immigration policy dates back to one of our founders: When he was six, Sergey Brin's parents fled the Soviet Union in 1979 and settled in the United States," Google said in a statement posted yesterday on its Web site. "Today, there are literally hundreds of examples of immigrants and non-immigrant foreign workers playing a vital role in our company."
In his testimony, Bock, who came to the United States as a child when his mother fled Communist Russia, said that the current limits on the number of H-1B visas considerably hampers Google's hiring practices. Over the last year alone, Bock said, the low cap on H-1B visas has prevented more than 70 Google candidates from receiving H-1B visas.
"Each and every day we find ourselves unable to pursue highly qualified candidates because there are not enough H-1B visas," Bock said in his testimony. "We would encourage Congress to significantly increase the annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, to a figure more reflective of the growth rate of our technology-driven economy."
Bock warned that failing to up the number of allotted visas could prove disastrous not only for individual companies, but eventually, for the U.S. economy on the whole. "Unfortunately, many … valued employees become frustrated with the inefficiencies in the immigration system, give up because of the up to five-year waits, and either move home or seek employment in more welcoming countries -- countries that are direct economic competitors to the United States," Bock said.
Google is certainly not the only company that has expressed public support of increasing the number of available H-1B visas. National trade organization Electronics Industries Alliance (EIA), whose board includes execs from Motorola, Vishay, and Samsung Semiconductor, among others, has expressed public support for a bill currently under consideration in the House and the Senate to raise the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000.