Technology companies, which have laid off hundreds of thousands of workers, are already feeling the heat from politicians about their support of the H-1B foreign worker program at a time when many Americans are jobless. (Read the Reuters story explaining why, as a result, tech companies might have to tone down their campaign to hire more H-1B workers this year.)
Last month, Microsoft was the specific target of Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who shot off a letter to the tech bellwether saying it should lay off foreign workers before laying off domestic workers.
Microsoft responded it was laying off both H-1B workers and Americans, and that it was extending support equally to all affected employees. While that may be the case, foreign workers often have a harder time if they’re laid off.
Under the H-1B visa rules, a worker who loses his job cannot stay on in the United States without changing to a different visa or finding another job. With layoffs all around, it’s not the best market in which to find a job, which means foreign workers could be forced to drop their American lives and head back home.
But some recruiters say companies are sympathetic to the plight of these workers. Recruiter Adam Charlson, who works at Korn/Ferry International’s Silicon Valley office, said companies have been quite aggressive about trying to protect people on H-1B visas. “Organizations are actively doing whatever possible to keep the loopholes open to help H-1Bs find other employment,” he said.