SAN FRANCISCO President Joe Biden’s inauguration has raised hopes in the tech industry that after four years of restrictive immigration policies, Silicon Valley could see an open pipeline of smart engineers and entrepreneurs from from abroad.
So far, however, the change has not been so dramatic.
Although the Biden administration drew applause this week for ending a Trump-era ban on certain types of visas widely used in the tech industry, lawyers and others say the overall record of Bidens on skilled immigration has been mixed as he slowly makes modest changes in a few areas while leaving his options open in others.
Change is not happening fast enough under the Biden administration, and it is essential that it does, said immigration lawyer Ashima Duggal, who represents entrepreneurs, scientists and technology investors.
The fact that tech companies don’t get everything they want when it comes to immigration policy may be the result of the Biden administration’s occupation as it initially focuses on other priorities, including vaccinating Americans against Covid-19, boosting the economy in the short term, and responding to an influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border.
But it also demonstrates that tech executives may have compelling things to do in Washington, despite their long-standing ties to prominent Democratic politicians.
Businesses need to remember that this is a Democratic administration and not necessarily so pro-business immigration, ”said Sophie Alcorn, an immigration lawyer who represents start-up founders and others. players in the technology industry. “This is not the priority.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Biden administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the criticism.
The tech industry depends more than any other sector of the economy on raw talent and skilled labor from abroad. Immigrants have created or now run many of the industry’s largest companies, including Google and Microsoft, and in the Bay Area, more than half of tech workers are foreign-born, according to a review of data from census conducted in 2018 by the Seattle Times.
It’s also an industry former President Donald Trump has targeted for restrictions during his four years in the White House, claiming immigrants are taking jobs from Americans.
Trump imposed a series of bureaucratic and regulatory changes that immigration lawyers say limited the number of visas available, extended the application deadline and led to denials of applications that should have been accepted under the law existing.
Those people who apply are scientists, are artists, are Grammy winners and are clearly qualified as per the requirements, and they are either turned down or forced to go through some hurdles and hurdles to prove their case, Duggal said.
It is still happening. There has been no change, she said.
To unwind his actions, Biden doesn’t necessarily need new laws Trump hasn’t made major changes to the immigration law itself, but he may need to rebuild agencies that help enforce them , such as the State Department and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Duggal described a client who applied for an EB-1 visa, a category that applies to immigrants of extraordinary ability, including people who have played leadership or critical roles in distinguished organizations. He had founded two startups and served as CEO, but immigration officials turned down his application, she said.
They just blatantly said: We are not convinced that a CEO plays a critical role, she said.
In other areas of immigration policy, tech industry lobby groups are awaiting formal action to back the Biden administration’s statements.
The National Venture Capital Association and other organizations sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in February, asking the department to add more resources to a visa program for startup founders. The program was started under the Obama administration, then put on hold under the Trump administration and was never fully implemented.
There are currently no visa categories designed for foreign-born entrepreneurs who wish to set up businesses in the United States and bring all the benefits of starting a new business to our country, the letter said.
University lobbyists are making their own push for changes that would increase international student enrollment, a key part of the talent pipeline for Silicon Valley. Enrollments stagnated during the early years of the Trump administration, then fell 43% after the pandemic hit.
What we have seen under the Trump administration are many changes and proposed changes that have made our international students and institutions wonder what will happen next, said Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations for the ‘American Council on Education.
The Biden administration could do a lot by talking about the importance of international students, she said, although the group also sent a letter to the administration in March asking for faster visa processing and another. help.
Immigrants and potential employers are waiting to see what the Biden administration does with H-1B visas, a category that applies to skilled workers. The Trump administration planned to end the lottery system for granting H-1B visas and switch to a salary-based system. Biden put that plan on hold in February, without detailing future plans.
Meanwhile, lawyers said delays in visa processing and consulate interviews remain common under Biden, in part because the Trump administration brought consular staff back overseas at the start of the pandemic. .
The Biden administration also hasn’t said what it plans to do with a Trump-era rule requiring visa applicants to disclose their social media credentials, a rule that tech companies including Twitter and Reddit, argued it violated free speech guarantees. Biden asked officials for a report in late May on whether the rule significantly improved detection and screening.
Still, Duggal said she hoped the Biden administration would do more.
If those numbers don’t grow quickly, the U.S. economy will feel it in the years to come, and particularly in California and Silicon Valley, she said.
It is an important source of growth in the American economy for income, for employment and this whole ecosystem is in danger due to the lack of visas available for entrepreneurs and professionals.
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