Trump Suspending Visas Just Ships Jobs Overseas – Forbes - Freelance Rack

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trump Suspending Visas Just Ships Jobs Overseas – Forbes

President Trump signed an executive order today suspending foreign worker visas, including the technology industry’s favorite, the H-1B. The intent is to ensure American jobs get filled with American workers.

The reality? Zoom exists.

Local and distant workers have never been on a more level playing field.

And those “American” jobs will simply move elsewhere. Overseas. Up north. Down south. Anywhere, in fact, where there’s skilled labor. And that will ultimately cost the U.S. more.

As a Canadian who worked in the U.S. for years, I should know. I worked in the U.S. on various L visas for companies that did business on both sides of the border. And I’ve visited the U.S. on multiple occasions on temporary B-1 visas to visit a client. So I’ve seen the work of the border guards and immigration officials tasked with monitoring and enforcing regulations here, and what actually happens.

The goal of the executive order is not bad: more American jobs for American workers. That’s entirely fair, especially during COVID-19.

The problem is that we’re all working remotely right now.

And that means, in a sense, we’re all overseas.

The H-1B typically brings tech workers into the U.S. so they can help American companies be more competitive, develop better technology, innovate faster, and outgrow their competition. Tech companies bring overseas talent into the U.S. so they can live and work and spend close-quarters time with the teams that are coding software and building products because nothing is as high-resolution, immediate, and impactful as face-to-face communication and cooperation.

Meatspace beats digital.

At least for some critical components of innovation.

It’s not always necessary — WordPress powers almost 40% of the web with an all-remote team — but at key points, it can be crucial. That’s precisely why I had visas: almost all of my work was done in Canada, but meetings and connection and cooperation happened on trips to head office.

But now, that advantage has disappeared.

People who don’t need to colocate for work — whose work is digital — are all remote workers now. A 55,000-person fintech company moved 95% of their workforce home. Most of us want to stay working from home, post-Coronavirus. Almost half of us would even take a pay cut to stay working from home. Virtual events are up 1,000% since COVID-19. Even the Census Bureau is completing the 2020 Census while working mostly from home.

And no, this is not fair.

Blue collar is going to work because they have to. White collar is staying home because they can. In fact, almost 70% of white collar workers are staying home.

For knowledge workers, that makes geography matter less. That provides a more level playing field. And now companies can just leave overseas talent right where it is.

If you still need it — and that’s definitely an if, because companies have cut back as a result of COVID-19 — you can access that talent via Zoom and Slack and email and all those remote work platforms that are in super-high demand right now. You don’t need the visa.

Essentially, the U.S. suspending visas just highlights the problem. It emphasizes the opposite of what it is trying to achieve.

Because leaving those workers overseas ends up costing the U.S. more. While imported workers might — and that’s a might — take jobs that Americans would otherwise fill, they would certainly also contribute to the U.S. economy while living in the United States. Tax, rent, groceries, supplies, restaurants, furniture, you name it: all things they’d have to buy in whatever town or city they end up in.

But while working on Zoom and Slack?

They’re taking American dollars from American companies. And they’re spending it in Europe or South America or India or Canada or whatever other country they’re in. It doesn’t have to be an employee relationship either: they’re now a consultant, or they form a company that contracts with the U.S. company for work.

And that, I wager, is worse for the U.S. economy.

Sometimes, unintended consequences are the worst consequences of all.

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