Exclusive Survey Reveals Discrimination Against Visa Workers at Tech’s Biggest Companies
OneZero conducted a 10,000-person poll to shed light on the plight of H-1B workers
This article is part of Into the Valley, a feature series from OneZero about Silicon Valley, the people who live there, and the technology they create.
In 2010, Alex left a “pretty small country in Asia” to study computer science at one of America’s elite universities. Alex, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of this story, eventually caught the eye of Microsoft, which sponsored their H-1B visa. Now legally a guest worker in the United States, Alex was one of thousands of foreign employees in a labor pipeline stretching between Silicon Valley and countries like India, China, and South Korea.
Every year, technology giants compete over H-1B visas, and the opportunity to sponsor foreign workers. For these employees, the visa can represent a path to residency, and can mean employment at some of the world’s most high-profile companies. But foreign laborers who enter the program also report feeling like an underclass, with stressful working conditions and discrimination due to their visa status.
Alex successfully petitioned for a green card, earning their permanent residency in 2019. Yet for thousands of workers on H-1B visas, conditions are challenging, and can feel as if they’re designed to keep them silent.
In late 2019, OneZero commissioned a survey in partnership with Blind, an anonymous social networking app that’s widely used by technology employees, to understand the working conditions that H-1B recipients face. The survey ran for two weeks and drew responses from more than 11,500 workers from some of tech’s most notable companies. (Blind verifies the identities of its users based on their company email addresses.) Employees at Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Uber, and Facebook accounted for a quarter of all feedback. OneZero also distributed a Google questionnaire, completed by more than 180 H-1B workers, that asked about salary, demographics, and the respondents’ opinions of the current administration’s immigration policies and rhetoric.