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Expected Changes in Key Visa program Makes Facebook Vulnerable

Expected Changes in Key Visa program Makes Facebook Vulnerable
According to a Reuters analysis of U.S. Labor Department filings, the most vulnerable to U.S. President Donald Trump’s expected crackdown on guest-worker visas would be Facebook Inc among Silicon Valley’s top tech employers.
Giving the social media leader a legal classification as a H-1B “dependent” company, more than 15 percent of Facebook's U.S. employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa. Compared to Alphabet Inc's Google, Apple Inc), Inc or Microsoft Corp, that is a higher proportion.
And as the president and some Republican lawmakers have threatened to do, if Trump or Congress decide to make the H-1B program more restrictive, that could cause problems for Facebook.
The program in its current form has been opposed by both Trump and Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions. According to a draft executive order, to “ensure the beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest,” they have also indicated that they are open to reforming it.
Any new rules that would target companies with the H-1B "dependent" classification have not been proposed by the Trump administration. But Facebook is the most exposed in the industry to any changes in H-1B visa policy as suggested by the fact that Facebook alone among major tech companies falls into that category.
There was no comment from Facebook.
As part of a larger immigration reform effort through executive orders and Congressional action, Trump would target H-1B visas, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), services included in, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers are allowed by the H-1B visas which are intended for foreign nationals in "specialty" occupations that generally require higher education. Chiefly through a lottery systems, the government awards 85,000 every year.
These visas are used to recruit top talent, companies say. But sparking criticism by skeptics that those firms use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs, a majority of the visas are awarded to outsourcing firms. Outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications are benefitted with the lottery system, critics also say.
Outsourcing firms such as India's Tata Consultancy Services or Infosys mostly hold the H-1B dependent status. In an effort to ensure that companies did not use the visas to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor, the status was introduced in the late 1990s. Under the status, U.S. companies have to prove that local talent cannto be found.
In its applications for H-1B visas with the Labor Department last year, Facebook listed itself as a dependent company.
Changes to the H-1B visa program was discussed with top technology executives, including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg by Trump before he took office as president.
In a move that is designed to reduce their issuance to outsourcing firms, those changes included possibly ending the lottery and replacing it with a system that would award the visas to the highest-paying jobs first.
For Facebook and other major technology companies, such a move could soften the blow.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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