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Retaining Foreign Tech Talent: Letting Their Kids Stay


For years, there has been a labor shortage for home-grown technical workers in the United States. Big tech has consistently recruited foreign talent to make up for this shortfall. Now, with more restrictions on available H1-B visas, and an even tighter labor market, companies are scrambling to retain their top talent- and their children.

Documented Dreamers have grown up in the United States. They are predominantly the children of technology workers who have spent many years working for FAANG and other large tech companies. However, once these children of visa holders turn twenty-one, they must leave the United States or attempt their luck at the very expensive and lengthy green card process.

When children leave, their parents leave too. The US is anticipating that close to 200,000 documented dreamers are ready to age out of the system. This means that companies like Amazon, Salesforce, and Google are losing their current talent as well as their incoming talent pipeline.  In many cultures outside of the US, STEM careers are the pinnacle of success. And children of these tech workers are more likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps, creating a new generation of engineering labor. Additionally, it is common for children outside of the United States to live with their parents well into their twenties.

Thus, documented dreamers are currently at the center of the America’s Children Act – championed by big tech. This bill would push for a path to citizenship for Documented Dreamers, children who came here legally and have likely spent most, if not all of their lives growing up in the United States.

Nearly ten percent of the US computer workforce is currently on a temporary visa. More than thirty percent are foreign born according to the National Foundation for American Policy. This spring, more than 11 million jobs remained open: many in high-paying, tech-heavy industries. Filling these openings has been particularly critical throughout the pandemic.

The US is in a perpetual race against other nations for technical innovation and ingenuity. Visa reductions, workers leaving with children who have aged out of the system, and hostility towards opening up additional quantities H1-B visas has created a nexus that will directly put talent into the hands of competitors abroad.  It will be much tougher to retain established talent and attract new talent as they weigh whether the US visa system is worth the hassle. There is a real fear that this will cause a ripple effect that will affect the United States’ ability to keep up globally.

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