Monday, May 14, 2007

Keeping Google and America Competitive

Google's continued success depends on our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest. One of the tools we've used to do that is the U.S. H-1B visa program, which allows foreign-born workers with specialized skills to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis.

Unfortunately, the current program just isn't keeping pace with the number of high-skilled immigrants who want to work at companies like Google. Last month, the U.S. government started accepting applications for H-1B visas for the period starting this fall, and was quickly swamped with more than 123,000 petitions in just the first two days. Because Congress has only allowed 65,000 visas each year, they are being awarded by a lottery system.

Why does this matter? In disciplines like math, science and engineering, half or more of the post-graduate degrees at U.S. universities are awarded to foreign nationals, and keeping those workers in the U.S. is key to our future economic growth. In fact, immigrants have played a critical role in the explosion of the U.S. Internet economy. According to the National Venture Capital Association, over the past 15 years one out of every four public companies backed by venture capital was started by an immigrant -- including Google and eBay. Here at Google, about seven to ten percent of our U.S.-based employees are in the U.S. on an H-1B visa. Without these employees, we might not be able to develop future life-changing products like the next Gmail or Google Earth.

When there aren't enough H-1B visas, some of our most talented employees have to leave the U.S. When that happens we do our best to relocate those Googlers to one of our other offices around the world, although we'd much prefer to have them stay working here in the U.S. (their expertise may be best suited to projects we're working on in the U.S., plus we don't have offices everywhere). When we can't relocate them, we may lose them entirely.

So we need to reform the H-1B program -- especially by expanding the number of visas awarded each year. This is an essential step toward keeping the U.S. high-tech industry competitive with the rest of the world.

To press this issue, Google recently joined a coalition called Compete America, a group of companies, educators, research groups and trade associations that is working hard on these issues in Washington. Increasing the annual cap on H-1Bs is the group's top priority, and we'll be working with Congress to enact reforms to the program. Our goal is to accomplish immigration reform for high-skilled workers before the 2008 presidential elections and hopefully sooner.


BPINK said...

We need business help to foster the best and brightest here as well. I can't help but wonder the progress that could be mad ein our education system with the help of a progressive company like Google.

T.Keating said...

Google fits the typical profile for a H-1B exploiter.

In the past.. (pre H-1B fiasco)..

1.) Employers would seek out employees from different regions of the country. This search would extend to the point of opening up
branch offices in other city and states in order to find and maintain talent in those remote locations.

Note: Not everyone can justify the expense of moving to a new city and job form a 80 to 150K/yr salary. This especially rings true for the more successful people, who would take huge tax/asset hits(>200K$) in such a dislocation. (I.E. Several years of after tax earnings just to break even from such a dislocation. )

2.) Contract specialized consultants for specific rare fields that require exceptional talent needed to deliver reliable products. (Device drivers, OS guru's, etc.)

P.S. Google you really don't need these specialized people on a full time basis anyway.

3.) Hire and educate lessor qualified employees and/or BS/MS/PHD's from non-computer fields. (This used to be the mainstay employment mechanism for science types in our tech based society.)

Note: Most scientifically trained people are more than capable of
performing a computer related programming task , if given a chance. The H-1B program has eliminated much of this activity and greatly increased probability of a negative ROI from earning a science degree.

4.) Provide telecommuting opportunities. (related to item #1)

5.) Pay a competitive wage rates, especially after a companies stock
has peaked or trades in limited range.

6.) Demands unreasonable extended work hours on a consistent basis.

From what I've read previously.
Google fails on all counts listed above.

Daniel said...

Very interesting, no wonder why Google is so big and successful, it is inspired and guided by a great mentality and open-minded creative people. Kudos to these two guys!

Obtaining H-1B status is becoming increasingly difficult though, foreign nationals do not only compete for jobs but for employers' willingness to do sponsorships as well.

Jean said...

While I think it is a shame that our top universities award large amounts of advanced technical degrees, only to see that expertise exported because of our visa policies, I think the more important issue is the one which BPINK has raised. What is Google’s position on our nation’s education system, and why comparatively speaking, our students suck at science and math?

Maria Casey said...

The argument about bringing talent from other parts of the country and relocating it to CA is not valid simply because Google does have small offices throughout the United States and it is up to the recent graduates to be open minded in their work search. Virtual work teams do exist! Unfortunately foreign nationals are at a disadvantage in this regard – US cost center can not pay foreign national unless there is work authorization in place. Maria Casey, CPA