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Microsoft President: Jobs Might Move Abroad Following Immigration Policy Changes

Dive Brief:

  • Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith warned that some Microsoft jobs may move abroad as a result of U.S. immigration policies affecting "hundreds of employees who would lose their ability to work in the United States," according to an interview with CNBC.
  • Rather than allowing those employees' jobs with Microsoft to end, the company would help those employees work abroad because "people are your most valuable asset," Smith said. A Vancouver, Canada-based development center could serve as a "safety valve" for the company.
  • Immigration policies in question include the Trump administration's proposal to take away work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders and tightening of a program that allows STEM graduations to apply for a work visa while they are working, according to Smith.

Dive Insight:

While some changes to immigration policies are still just proposals, the effects are already being felt in business and on workers. With many arguments for tightening immigration hinging on promoting jobs for domestic workers, the outsourcing of jobs to foreign employees would be an unintended reaction for the current administration.

Immigration policies affect much more than the individual worker. One of the greatest reasons for expatriate assignment failure is decreased satisfaction among dependents of H-1B visas, and this failure can cost an organization anywhere between $250,000 to $1 million. Businesses that lose these workers will also have to handle the friction of hiring and onboarding replacements.

The ongoing tech talent shortage necessitates that many technology companies turn to visa workers. Until the talent pipeline in the U.S. is larger (and old enough to enter the workforce), it can often be the case that there simply are not domestic workers that can fill some roles.

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