New guideline for H-1B visas may make things harder for Silicon Valley

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- There's confusion and concern over a new guideline from federal authorities that may make it a lot harder for foreign computer programmers to come and work in Silicon Valley.

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The heart of Silicon Valley runs on the skills and innovation of those who love working in computer science, but the reality is, not enough people do.

"We're only producing 25,000 American-born kids with computer science degrees annually to fill 125,000 annual job openings," said Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

And that's why California has the highest number of H-1B visa applicants.

Over the weekend, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a memo that is causing concern. It changes the way the agency processes applications for computer programmers and puts the burden on the company to prove that specific position is a specialty occupation.

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"Position of the computer programmer, it could invite further attention from immigration and they could issue a request for further evidence," said Immigration Attorney Jay Terkiana.

Terkiana says 80 percent of his clients are start-up companies and they could be impacted because of this new mandate.

Industry watchers do not think established companies such as Google or Apple will experience much trouble getting visas approved for recruits.

"Our start-ups can barely afford to go through the H-1B process," Guardino added. "The lawyer fees are $10 -- 20,000 per applicant."

H-1B visas are awarded through a lottery system and the process to apply for the fiscal year began Monday. Attorneys and employers are closely watching if the Trump administration makes any changes to the process this year.

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