Tech firms urge US to allow children of visa holders to stay over 21

Muthumala Dandabani, an Indian immigrant with an H1-B visa and a Comcast employee in Sunnyvale, protests President Trump’s immigration orders in 2017.

Santiago Mejia | Hearst Newspapers | Getty Images

A coalition of tech companies including Amazon, Google, Salesforce and Uber are urging the Department of Homeland Security to review policies for the children of highly skilled visa holders, many of whom are in their businesses, so they can survive past age 21 without a green card.

In a letter to DHS Sec. Alejandro Mallorcas announced Tuesday, that companies have asked the Biden administration to “put in place more robust outdated policies.” They point to the more than 200,000 children who grew up in the United States while their parents held visas, including the highly skilled H1-B visa that is particularly popular in the tech industry. Once these children turn 21, they must apply for a green card, a process that can continue and even force some to leave in the meantime.

These companies are also encouraging Congress to pass America’s bipartisan Children’s Act to create a path to citizenship for so-called “documented dreamers” in this case.

“Policy makers have recognized the plight of the Dreamers – children brought to the United States by their parents, who know no other country and left without legal status – and have provided temporary relief through DACA,” the group wrote. “Now, we urge policymakers to address the needs of the more than 200,000 children of highly skilled migrants who risk falling through the cracks in the immigration system.”

The tech industry has always championed immigration issues, but this time it is also highlighting the urgent needs of employers at a time of widespread labor shortages in the United States.

“Earlier this spring, American companies had more than 11 million job openings – 5 million more jobs than workers,” the coalition wrote. “Many of these vacancies are for highly skilled jobs, and US companies are hiring foreign-born workers to fill a labor shortage. These vacancies are especially important given the pandemic as the US seeks to maintain its global leadership position in innovation and creativity.”

Companies argue that current aging policies are harming their ability to hire highly skilled workers from outside the United States

Once they reach the age of 21, children of visa holders face a difficult choice between leaving the country that has become their home, or trying to re-enter the labyrinthine and high-risk immigration system of obtaining a different visa where the options are very limited. Parents should either separate from their children or give up their careers and any plans to obtain permanent residence in the United States,” the group wrote.

“Those who are forced to leave are a loss to America’s communities and workforces,” the companies wrote.
“Their skills and talents will go to our global competitors.”

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