Kim Malcolm talks with Axios tech editor Kim Hart about recent rule changes to the H-1B visa program, and what they could mean for tech workers in the Puget Sound region.
On the rule changes for computer programmers:
"It does not mean that all computer programmers are ineligible for these visas. It means that companies who want to sponsor computer programmers would be subject to more scrutiny. People examining the applications could ask for more evidence to prove this is a job that you absolutely must fill using an H-1B visa, that you can't fill using American talent."
On how large tech firms like Microsoft and Amazon could be affected:
"Companies like Microsoft and Amazon rely on H-1B visas for high skilled workers, but they don't usually use the computer programmer category. They're looking for several skill levels above that: network engineers, or people who have degrees in artificial intelligence or robotics. It affects the pure tech companies less than it affects Indian outsourcers that are being targeted by this action."
On the federal government's push to cut down on fraud and abuse:
"The government is trying to remind employers that they need to hire American first, and that they should only resort to using H-1B visas for high skilled workers that can't be found in the U.S. On the campaign trail, President Trump was very skeptical of the H-1B program. He wanted to make sure that companies weren't overusing the program to bring in cheaper labor."
On whether fraud and abuse is taking place:
"There's wide agreement that some companies are using the program in way that allows them to overly rely on H-1B visas for their staffing needs. But some companies in the high tech sector have said they have trouble filling specific roles, and are willing to pay top dollar. But there's a larger pipeline of these workers outside of the U.S."
On what these changes mean for the H-1B program moving forward:
"A lot of immigration experts see this as a harbinger of things to come. It's a sign they're going to try to crack down and be more restrictive on who gets these visas. Everyone that I've been talking to expects the administration to take further measures to restrict certain kinds of jobs and to make sure that the visas are reserved for the cream of the crop in terms of skills they're looking to bring to the U.S."
This interview was edited for length and clarity.