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90% of fired H1-B visa holders were able to find new work against all odds. Here's what the data tells us about America's complicated relationship with foreign talent

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The noise of layoffs in the tech sector since the beginning of the year has sent thousands of H-1-B visa holders racing against the clock to find new work within 60 days or face deportation. For those in the starting block, that deadline has now passed. The good news is that most have crossed the finish line.

But Ravelio Labs, where we aggregate a world of publicly available workforce data to understand labor trends, we found that more than 90% of fired H1-B visa holders were able to secure new work through the program. met the rigorous criteria of In fact, compared to native workers, immigrants found work 10 days faster, largely because with so much more at stake, they were more likely to move stateside for a new job — but that’s where it went. This is where the flexibility ends, as only visa holders are allowed to take up roles directly related to their particular training.

In fact, we found that 67% of non-immigrant workers switched roles after being fired, compared to only 49% of visa holders. With Big Tech tightening its belt so tightly, how have so many people been able to find roles in their specialties? The answer lies in the demand of the market.

tech jobs are up very popular Outside tech companies. In this way, the stars aligned for tech workers locked out on H1-B visas, because as one door was closed, many others sat open. The H1-B visa program works best when it allows participants to ebb and flow in lockstep with market demand, but it is not an inherently market-sensitive talent pipeline. According to data from Ravelio Labs, 78% fortune 500 Companies are currently sitting with key roles that have been vacant for six months or more – which would not be the case if the H-1-B visa program provided more flexibility to holders, and if qualified talent among public and private actors It takes more collaboration to funnel it to what is most needed.

Even as the layoffs continue, our labor shortage Not going anywhere. Ravelio Labs found that more than 43.4% of companies had more than 50 technical roles that they were unable to fill in the past year, which 68.8% Number of H-1B visa holders approved in 2021.

As it stands, our system for granting visas, which could otherwise be a reliable talent pipeline to fill open roles and make it possible to recruit the best and brightest from all corners of the globe, is affected by those conditions. visa holders in a market that demands movement. In a truly market-sensitive visa award system, companies will instead get the workers they need. In the long term, this could help stabilize the workforce, reduce the cost of talent shortages, and narrow the skills gap, all of which are expected to make up for the loss. $162 billion By 2030.

One of the saddest—and hurtful—aspects of the H1-B visa process is the 65,000 cap on how many visas can be granted each year (plus an additional 20,000 for US bachelor’s degree holders), which has remained the same ever since. The program started two decades ago. in 2023, alone meant to be over 483,000 Despite lakhs of jobs being open, applicants were turned away.

This is not the first year that demand has exceeded this limited supply. Between 2008 and 2020, the cap was maxed out On multiple occasions within the first five business days of application opening. Last year, the number of visa registrations increased by 56.8%.

To make a dent in the millions of roles lying vacant, we need flexible, market-sensitive visa policies to determine the flow of foreign labor – not arbitrary and outdated federal limits.

Local municipalities are in the best position to determine the number of foreign workers they can absorb. Companies spend $5,000 to $10,000 more to hire H1-B visa holders than US citizens. Instead of spending time and resources in a federal system, which may or may not result in a company or community’s talent needs being met, companies can pay the municipalities where their foreign worker resides and in return receive a guaranteed obtains a visa. Companies get the workers they need – and municipalities get much-needed revenue in return.

chicago It offers a glimpse of what it might look like if municipalities were given the power to hire foreign workers. The city recently launched a coordinated effort between 35 firms willing to hire H1-B visa holders and a non-profit organization that lists these jobs as being willing to sponsor H1-B visas. advertises the website. This private-public partnership hopes to fill more than 400,000 open roles from the pool of laid-off workers from the tech sector who are here on visas. It’s a great place to start – and a model that would be even more scalable and sustainable if the revenue from firms paying for visa applications went back to the city rather than the federal government.

This should shape the way we view today’s headlines about the recent layoffs in Silicon Valley thousands of employees hired on an H-1B visa with limited options And only 60 days to find new opportunities. The disruption to people’s lives is unimaginable. If we can’t find better ways to stabilize and retain foreign workers, it’s likely that many of those laid off workers will return to their home countries or countries with immigrant-friendly policies, such as Canada, New Zealand or Switzerland – just to name a few proceed America’s talent shortage will affect our communities and America’s standing in the global economy.

We have taken the right steps to correct recruitment practices that discriminate against people on the basis of their race, religion or gender, but the way our current visa system is set up, we allow geography wrongful disqualification Even the brightest applicants. If the market and merit (instead of a lottery) had the final say in which labor we welcomed and where, we would not only have far fewer vacancies, but more and more of the best and brightest from around the world contributing to our workforce and our communities. Will be talented too.

When we can’t hire and retain top non-native talent, we hand over to global competitors what used to be America’s greatest advantage. The tangled web of US immigration policy is many reforms away from serving our best economic interests – but too much is at stake to stand our ground. Solving this issue will help firms get the talent they need, help our cities thrive, and create a more efficient and equitable workforce.

Ben Zweig is a labor economist and CEO of Revelio Labs.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Luck,

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