There’s no denying it: Foreign-born employees are greatly contributing to the American tech sector, and their contributions are essential for continued advancement in the field.
Even in a nationwide economic slump, tech thrives because of more workers, not fewer. Immigrants working in the US tech sector are not only helping America stay on top in the industry, but are also key to the country’s overall economic advancement.
Why the Immigrant Tech Boom?
The Washington Examiner notes that a whopping 37% of the Silicon Valley tech hub is foreign-born, compared to 27% of California’s total population who are non-native U.S. citizens. Even more revealing, STEM-field careers (science, tech, engineering, and math) are dominated by immigrants. In these fields, over 26% of immigrant workers have a Ph.D., and more than 17% have Master’s degrees.
On top of that, more than 40% of Silicon Valley startups between 2006 to 2012 had at least one founder that was foreign-born. Immigrants also own a third of international patents.
So, why are there so many immigrants in tech?
The Atlantic’s Ted Hesson offers a simple explanation: Immigrants and native-born workers are attracted to different types of jobs. Schools have urged high school students to pursue careers in tech and other STEM-related industries because of the lack of American tech employees. There’s certainly a need for growth in the field, yet Americans haven’t shown as much interest or initiative as foreign-born workers.
Research from the Information Technology Industry Council shows that for every foreign-born worker who pursues a STEM career and remains in their field, they create more than two jobs for American workers because of their contributions to research, development, and innovation.
If the US desires to continue advancing its technology industry, the help of foreign-born workers isn’t just welcomed – it’s imperative.
Enabling a Collaborative Environment
One way that American tech companies and entrepreneurs are collaborating with immigrants and learning from their ideas is by capitalizing on coworking spaces.
Coworking spaces are places where people from around the world come to network and build their businesses in the US. Commonly used by entrepreneurs, these spaces have evolved to include freelancers, digital nomads, and large corporations looking to build connections and gain interactions outside of a home office.
Not only do coworking spaces benefit international entrepreneurs, but they also benefit American companies that can learn and grow from the knowledge and perspective of international employees. Many users of coworking spaces have reported finding new clients and talent while using the space. These spaces are prime locations for connecting and exchanging ideas, giving everyone in the room a chance to benefit from the knowledge of peers around the world.
The Growing Concern of the Trump Administration’s Impact on Immigration
Despite the evidence of immigrant contributions in the American tech sector, the Trump administration is looking to place further restrictions on immigrant workers, thereby threatening American tech growth. The administration has already sounded the alarmregarding the potential to reduce or eliminate the J-1 Cultural Exchange and the Diversity Lottery. This program allows 300,000 foreign visitors from 200 countries to experience American culture and lifestyle each year, helping to foster relationships and potential collaboration opportunities.
However, if the Trump Administration successfully reduces the number of visas issued (or erases the program altogether), it could have a detrimental impact on the progression of America’s tech industry.
It’s little consolation that the university students visas are not expected to be on the Trump chopping block. Many others are still at risk, though the specific terms of the potential restriction remain unclear. The official ruling has been delayed until March 2018, a delay which, for now, may play to the advantages of those seeking “startup visas.”
A reduction in annual J-1 visa issuances would have bad consequences for the tech sector. Preventing tech companies from drawing from the global talent pool would force companies to outsource important engineering operations overseas. This means that we would be shipping away America’s best intellectual property, hindering innovation and growth on our home soil.
Given the impending restrictions on immigrant entrepreneurs, collaboration efforts on a broader scale are more crucial than ever. Global collaboration among engineers and entrepreneurs is key not just to American tech growth, but for a stronger economy overall.
Leveraging the knowledge of innovative minds across the world lets tech companies of all shapes and sizes benefit from the talent of foreign-born entrepreneurs. It’s imperative that the Trump administration recognize this–before it’s too late.