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Immigration and Technology

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on July 19, 2010

As technology becomes an increasingly important part of a mature U.S. economy with a diminishing manufacturing base, the need for intellectual capital to fuel technology innovation is greater than ever. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, foreign-born residents make up nearly 40 percent of technology company founders, and 52 percent of founders of Silicon Valley companies.

However, U.S. immigration policy still sets very low ceilings on the number of foreign workers allowed in the country each year. When asked what aspect of government policy he would change to encourage economic growth, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said in a 2005 Cnet interview: “I would certainly get rid of the H-1B visa caps.” Gates reportedly added that “the theory there are too many smart people coming here [is]… a dangerous idea.”

That sentiment is supported by many other technology company executives, but some economists and labor leaders have expressed concerns about protecting the domestic labor market from foreign undercutting.

Business reporter Michelle Cham Yu acknowledges that the H-1B visa program can be abused merely for the purpose of obtaining cheaper labor, but she asserts that the U.S. has experienced a measurable increase in innovation and productivity as a result of specialized foreign labor.

If you want to know more about sponsoring a foreign worker in a specialty occupation, check out the pertinent section of our Website regarding H-1B and other work visa categories.