From Airbnb to Zynga, they complain that the crackdown is harmful to their business and provides “strong incentives . . . to base operations outside the United States”.
They protest too much. First, by overstating the opportunities elsewhere: the UK is not in a mood to open its borders, even to highly paid tech talent; immigrant-friendly Canada already hosts tech workers and does not have infinite appetite.
It also ignores an important potential benefit of Mr Trump’s immigration overhaul. Officials are planning further restrictions on the H-1B visa programme, which allows companies to hire a total of up to 85,000 skilled overseas workers each year and is overwhelmingly used by the tech industry.
The White House is likely to borrow from congressional proposals, which would raise the minimum salary from $60,000 to more than $100,000. In addition, under a draft bill by Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic congresswoman, the current lottery would be scrapped in favour of a bidding system.
That sounds bad but it would disproportionately affect foreign outsourcing companies such as Infosys, Capgemini, Tata and Wipro, which are the biggest sponsors today.
They flood the system with hundreds of thousands of applications, ensuring they get the lion’s share of visas in the lottery. The likes of Alphabet and Facebook are not big enough employers to win on volume. But they could on salaries.
Having to pay workers $130,000 damages the business model at Wipro. It looks cheap at Facebook, where stock-based remuneration alone works out at $190,000 per employee. Wages and cash bonuses go on top of that.
As Goldman Sachs notes, a new bidding system might tilt in favour of internet and software companies. They can outbid the outsourcers and still pick up staff more cheaply than they do now.
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