Immigrant-friendly San Francisco Goes Against the Tide

That San Francisco, especially the tech companies in Silicon Valley, has a cultural perpetually open-door policy to qualified immigrants is no secret.

A vast number of its employees are either foreign-born, children of first-generation immigrants who did grow up in the United States, or graduates from American universities who want to reach for their own version of the American dream.

And based on current reports, not even the rigid stance of the current U.S. administration and its tightening of immigration laws are dampening that warmth.

First, many Silicon Valley denizens do not believe that immigrant workers are taking away their jobs from them — in stark contrast to their countrymen who live all over the U.S. Second, applications for H-1B visa in the region have increased, although the rest of the country has seen a steady decline.

As reported by The Mercury News, a survey launched by the newspaper itself, in partnership with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, shows that only 23 percent of the San Francisco Bay Area residents actually believe that foreign talent threatens their own chances of getting work.

Another 40 percent also hold that these talents contribute skills that are hard-pressed to find among candidates at home. In contrast, 44 percent of Americans, surveyed in various parts of the country, do see foreign talent as part of the reason why they, or someone they know, cannot get work.

This report is complemented by the Peninsula Press which posted another finding, this time by the Department of Labor. In 2017, about 61,000 foreign workers from the San Francisco Bay Area filed applications for the H-1B visa, despite restrictions that will make approval of their request more difficult. These talents filed their papers from the countries of Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo.

Their number shows a 3.2 percent increase in H-1B visa applications, which go against the tangible decrease on the national level. To show a clearer picture, in the aforementioned counties, there are 117 H-1B visa applications per 10,000 people—against only 16 applications against the same 10,000 people all over America.

The top San Francisco companies that employ the most number of workers with H-1B visas are HCL America Inc., Google, Intel, Apple, Facebook, and Salesforce.

Innovation and disruption have always been the hallmarks of these companies, their allies, and their competitors.

Not surprisingly, some of these tech companies are figuring out ways for qualified foreign talents to surmount the difficulties they face in applying for the H-1B visa.

As reported by the East Bay Times, automation just might be one solution. One tech firm, PassRight, is helping immigrants and foreign talents who want to work in the U.S. through an automated screening process that will enable them to see if they qualify for the O-1 visa.

The Trump administration has maintained that the immigration department should prioritize foreign talents who have exhibited “extraordinary” skills.

The O-1 visa or the so-called genius visa can be used to meet that requirement—and PassRight’s software can let foreign applicants see whether they do indeed qualify for it. Should the software judge them as qualified, it links them to a lawyer who can assist them in completing the application process.

It may be a shot in the dark, but it may turn out to be the first of many. With San Francisco going against the present tide of anti-immigrant sentiments, the tech whizzes who live within their walls just might tap their own considerable skills to increase their numbers—and bring in their highly-skilled colleagues from overseas.