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The Evolving Relationship of Tech and Immigration in 2021

The tech industry has an inclusion problem. According to Google’s 2020 diversity report, 73.3% of leadership roles belong to men and 65.9% belong to white people. Numbers like these are common for tech companies and illustrate the ongoing dominance of a white man’s “club” in the industry.

Immigration is one vehicle for overcoming this culture of exclusivity. Since modern digital business thrives on inclusivity and accessibility, bringing in talent from all over the world can help guarantee fresh perspectives and innovative solutions for any business. Immigration should make this process easier, but modern problems have created barriers in the evolving relationship between tech and diverse talent.

Understanding this relationship and its implications in 2021 and beyond can help set tech businesses on the path towards greater success and inclusivity.

Where Tech and Immigration Overlap

To best understand how essential immigration is to successful tech enterprises, it first helps to understand how immigrants add value through a diversity of perspectives and life experiences. In fact, nearly 45% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

These numbers alone are powerful evidence of the innovative thinking possible through bringing in different perspectives and personalities. Luckily, the United States has systems in place to encourage these innovative thinkers and allow them to enter and work in the country. When the system works, it enables an empowered tech industry fueled by immigration.

Visas are available for all kinds of tech workers, from start-up entrepreneurs to temporary workers. These include:

  • EB-5 Visa: This visa type allows immigrants to start a business in the U.S., but it typically requires a minimum investment of $1.8 million or $900,000 for targeted employment areas.
  • H-1B Visa: This visa is especially for specialty workers like tech engineers and software developers and requires sponsorship from a U.S. employer.
  • L-1 Visa: For temporary workers with specialized knowledge, the L-1 visa authorizes U.S. employment for a set time.
  • B-1 Visa: This visa makes business travel possible and can be helpful in networking and finding talent.

With options like these, tech companies can better find and bring in qualified candidates from all over the world. But the modern tech landscape has created challenges in this process. Everything from politics to pandemic has shifted the playing field, evolving the relationship between the tech industry and immigration.

An Evolving Relationship

The previous presidential administration created hurdles in fluid and widespread immigration. The impacts of which were felt in the tech industry, both in terms of seeking new talent and retaining certain finds. Then the coronavirus struck.

Amidst the efforts to combat the virus, travel was banned or postponed in many instances. Even visa programs like H-1B were put on hold, causing tech companies like Apple and Google to respond in protest. The coronavirus required a quick evaluation and re-work of business continuity plans to address everything from these travel and employment challenges to overall work processes.

Now, however, the relationship between tech and immigration is changing once again. The Biden-Harris administration extended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and overturned the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries. This has been a move celebrated by Google and other large tech companies, as it makes scouring the global tech talent pool that much easier.

With new political leadership and an economy that now revolves around remote work processes, that talent pool only looks to grow. Tech companies can broaden their recruitment processes, sponsor visas to workers from a broader share of countries, and seek out talent outside the immediate geographical boundaries.

A host of countries are actively welcoming remote workers. The legal requirements vary, but COVID-19 changes to work authorization abroad mean it’s easier to live wherever you want and maintain a job within the United States. Tech companies can use these developments to broaden their recruitment procedures and build a diverse pool of talent that can take on modern challenges.

However, there are still barriers to a smooth and diverse recruitment process.

Barriers to a Smooth Process

The modern tech industry faces all kinds of challenges from cybersecurity to global warming. Fortunately, some tech companies are addressing these challenges and moving forward with programs and innovations meant to address world issues. Drawing talent from all over the world through both immigration and broader remote work accessibility can help develop tech solutions to all kinds of problems. However, a lot of work must still be done to clear the path forward.

Gender and racial discrimination remain significant problems to diversifying the tech field. This is clear from simple demographic numbers alone. Unless we can break down these barriers and remove racist and sexist attitudes from the workplace, smoother immigration processes alone won’t be enough to spawn tech innovation.

2021 will undoubtedly be an easier time for tech companies in their efforts to recruit through immigration, but the exclusivity problem is far from fixed. Tech companies will make broadening their base of perspectives a priority of the new year if they truly seek to become open-minded, ethical, and viable.

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