Trump’s next order may hit Seattle tech employers hard

Jan 30, 2017, 3:32 PM | Updated: 3:54 pm
Microsoft, tech employers...
Microsoft. (AP)

The Trump administration has drafted a new, not-yet-signed, executive order that will affect high-profile tech companies — especially those in the Seattle region such as Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, according to Bloomberg..

At issue is tech employers’ use of H-1B visas. The visas allow companies to bring skilled foreign workers into the United States to work for 3-6 years.

Related: Renton college rushes to train tech skills

According to Bloomberg:

After the new president banned refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft and others railed against the move, saying it violated the country’s principles and risked disrupting its engine of innovation. Trump’s next steps could strike even closer to home: His administration has drafted an executive order aimed at overhauling the work-visa programs technology companies depend on to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.

The Trump administration argues that tech companies should hire Americans first. But tech companies have used H-1B visas to hire skilled workers when local talent is not available. Trump’s draft executive order also addresses L-1, E-2 and B1 visas. Bloomberg reports that is will cap the number of foreign tech workers from entering the country at 85,000 each year.

It will be the second blow to tech employers since Trump took office. The first being an executive order on immigration. The tech sector, one of America’s most powerful economic forces, has started pushing back against the Trump administration’s executive orders, the Associated Press reports.

“I share your concerns,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote about the president’s immigration order in a memo to employees last week. “It is not a policy we support.”

“We have reached out to the White House to explain the negative effect on our coworkers and our company,” he added.

Related: Trump executive order detains travelers at Sea-Tac Airport

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings also weighed in after last week’s immigration order and seven-nation ban.

“Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all,” Hastings wrote on Facebook. “Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe … It is time to link arms together to protect American values of freedom and opportunity.”

Google has given special instructions to many of its employees from the seven countries listed in Trump’s more recent executive order banning entry by travelers (including refugees and permanent residents) from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Google has told those employees to cancel any travel plans outside the country. About 187 Google employees could be affected.

Seattle-area tech employers

The Puget Sound Business Journal tallied Seattle-area companies who are the most prevalent tech employers using the H-1B visa.

Microsoft is the top employer with 4,294 H-1B visas, paying an average salary of $129,355, according to the Journal. Amazon is second with nearly half of that number, followed by Infosys in third place. After that, the numbers drop considerably into the hundreds of H-1B visas used by local tech employers. The list includes T-Mobile, Google, Expedia, and Starbucks.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.

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Trump’s next order may hit Seattle tech employers hard