According to American Technology Consulting (ATC), an IT staff solutions firm, the plethora of technology projects in the United States means that we need all the talent we can get.” This need isn’t just present in the U.S., either; tech skills are in high demand all over the world. Countries like Canada and Australia have taken aggressive measures to boost the influx of foreign talent, and the U.S. is finally following suit thanks to new changes to the H-1B immigration law. As the ATC team contends, this should have profound benefits for technology corporations.
Just last month, the Obama administration announced that it would be changing the H-1B immigration law by allowing spouses of talented temporary immigrants to also gain the legal right to work in the U.S. Experts argue that this change will help attract foreign talent who offer the best IT and science skills. According to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, it will effectively “unleash more of the extraordinary contributions that immigrants have always made to America’s innovation economy.”
Spousal working laws have long been an issue for skilled U.S. immigrants who are on a temporary visa known as H-1B. The law previously did not allow spouses to be employed legally. This means that many talented immigrants – from China, India, the Philippines, and elsewhere – were deterred from working in America.
The immigration law change will have a widespread impact, as there are generally hundreds of thousands of H-1B workers at any given time. Alejandro Mayorkas, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, claims it will benefit as many as 97,000 workers during the first year of its fulfillment, according to The New York Times. Work authorizations would be granted to spouses who have initiated the process for green card status.
The change will not just benefit immigrant families - it will also help companies who are in dire need of talented workers, according to ATC’s professionals. ATC works closely with foreign talent issues, as it helps companies with direct hire and staff augmentation.
“Some of these roles are hyper-specialized. What happens is there is a huge shortage of people. There are just not enough Americans that can fit these roles,” an ATC representative explained. “These jobs and projects have to be done, and a lot of these companies are going to be hurting because they do not have the right people in place to do them. So if there is no one to fill this job, foreign talent must be brought in to fill this role from China, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere to make sure the project is completed and executed correctly. ”
Considering the multitude of IT jobs available in the U.S., it might be hard to believe that graduating students lack such skills, but research shows this to be the case. A recent study by the Partnership for A New American Economy found a major gap between the types of graduates being produced and the type of jobs available in the U.S. economy.
"U.S. companies are hungry for talent with degrees in STEM [Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering]--these jobs are increasing three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy. However, these positions are the hardest to fill because of the dearth of native-born Americans with these degrees,” the group said in a statement.
They found that merely 4.4 percent of American-born undergrads are enrolled in STEM programs, compared with 33.9 percent in Singapore, 31.2 percent in China, 12.4 percent in Germany, and 6.1 percent in the UK.
ATC’s professionals agree that the U.S. is lagging behind when it comes to attracting international talent, but it has the greatest need for it.
“If you look at these other countries and the amount of projects they’re running, it is almost nothing compared to the United States. They need to open up their borders because the talent is not there - not because of the amount of projects. In the United States, we have to open up to help from immigrants because of both a lack of talent and because of the amount of projects we have running here at all times,” explains a representative.
ATC staffing experts claim that tech projects in the U.S. are extensive and massive and “these projects will not be able to run with the amount of talent we have in the United States right now.”
The spousal law can be extremely beneficial because the visa-holder often holds a similar education level as their spouse, who may present a valuable source of talent as well.
“There’s a 50 to 60 percent chance that their spouse has been educated on an equal plane as the one who earned their visa,” the ATC rep continues. “So what happens is, as it stands right now, if you come in to the country to work, your wife or your spouse absolutely cannot work. This obviously deters a lot of people from coming to work in this country. If their spouse says ‘no, I want to work.’ and they put their foot down, then you just lost a qualified, very intelligent person who was capable, willing, and could have made your company or project an ostensible success.”
In a globalized world, companies have a world full of talent available to them. But under restrictive immigration policies, attracting the talent necessary to fill jobs can be impossible. As the ATC team emphasizes, changes to the H-1B law will have immeasurable benefits for both immigrant families and tech-based companies here in the U.S.
Carly Fiske contributed to this article.