Are tech companies hiring fewer foreign workers because of Trump?

Posted August 8th, 2017

Since his inauguration in January, President Donald Trump has wasted no time taking steps toward fulfilling one of his campaign promises: to enact tougher immigration measures in order to preserve more jobs for Americans.

The tech industry has come out forcefully against Trump’s immigration stances, particularly when it comes to a proposal to cut the number of H1-B workers coming to the United States. This visa program is often used by tech companies to hire foreign workers.

And now, for the first time, we’re seeing some evidence that although many of Trump’s policies are still in the idea stage, it is making tech companies more cautious about hiring foreign workers, according to jobs site Hired.

Data compiled by Hired shows that since the second quarter of 2016, tech companies have sent fewer interview requests to foreign workers. The most striking decline came in the fourth quarter of 2016, when tech companies sent 60 percent fewer interview requests.

Hired concludes this plunge is a result of “uncertainty around immigration policies generated by the election.”

Because Hired helps facilitates the entire job search process, it has data on interview requests, job offers and salary.

Not all of the Hired data points to a “Trump effect” on hiring. Foreign job seekers are still accepting interview requests from U.S. companies at higher rates than they did last year, with Hired reporting only a modest dip in the fourth quarter.

Hired’s data is based on a sample of more than 175,000 interview requests and job offers facilitated by Hired in the last year. Hired, which focuses primarily on the tech industry, works with hundreds of companies, including major employers such as Facebook, Cisco and Intel.

These findings are drawn from a sample set of more than 175,000 interview requests and job offers from the past year.

Hired’s data doesn’t drill down into Austin, so I reached out to several Austin-based tech companies to see if they had pulled back on hiring foreign workers due to uncertainty of Trump’s immigration policies, or had noticed any less interest from foreign job applicants.

Most companies I contacted said it was business as usual.

Austin-based National Instruments, which makes testing equipment and software and employs 2,500 in Austin, said they have not noticed a decrease in foreign applicants and that the number of H1-Bs they applied for over the last several years has “remained consistent.”

Dell Technologies, which employs around 13,000 in the Central Texas area, simply said “our hiring practices haven’t changed.” Other tech companies, such as Silicon Labs, simply declined to comment on this topic. 

Todd Schulte, the executive director of an immigration reform group that was founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other tech industry leaders, said biggest effects of Trump’s immigration policies have yet to materialize.

Besides the travel ban, which is currently being litigated in the courts, most of Trump’s proposals are still in the “idea” stage.

Though Trump supporters may see a pullback on hiring foreign workers as a good thing, because it could preserve more jobs for Americans, Schulte argues it will ultimately harm the American economy and result in fewer jobs.

“What you’re starting to see is companies who look to the years ahead and say ‘If our ability to bring the best and brightest around the world is going to be substantially difficult in the United States, we’re going to look at other options.’ ” Schulte said.

He warned that the United States is on the brink of losing its status as a magnet for top talent in the tech industry.

For instance, the New York Times wrote earlier this month that countries such as Mexico and Canada are already taking advantage of signals that American is sending that it doesn’t want more immigration.

Canada has set up a new visa program that allows highly-skilled foreign workers to get two-year visas in less than two weeks. And, unlike in the United States, the Times notes, there is no limit on the number of Canadian visas available.