Speaking before a Congressional House Judiciary oversight subcommittee hearing on immigration, Google's Laszlo Bock, vice president of people operations, said that 8 percent of Google's workforce have H-1B visas, and come from 80 different countries. In the news.com story Bock is quoted as saying, "It is no stretch to say that without these employees, we might not be able to develop future revolutionary products like the next Gmail or the next Google Earth."
He also said that Google wasn't able hire 70 qualified job candidates due to the shortage of H-1B vision. Google currently has more than 2,800 open positions and more than 8,000 U.S. employees, and 12,000 worldwide.
Bock joined the chorus of high tech executives encouraging Congress to increase the annual number of visas and reduce the backlog of green card applications, as an alternative to losing high qualified foreign workers to competitors outside the U.S.
Bock's story isn't different from other high tech companies that are hamstrung by the current allocation of H-1B visas. The hearing took place as the Senate debates a controversial immigration bill, which the Senate passed yesterday, which focused mostly on illegal immigrants. H-1B visas would increase from 65,000 to 115,000 per year, and potentially to 185,000. However, the fee for each H-1B visa is increased and the number of visas still falls short of what technology companies believe is necessary to compete.
The most interesting exchange during Bock's testimony came when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asked if Google could implement a system to determine which foreign workers should be granted visas. A current point system proposal would take into consideration factors such as education level, family ties to the U.S., English language skills and occupation.
As Anne Broache reported:
"Could Google produce the software that would identify for us the very top one million people on the globe who would want to apply to come to the United States who could give the best enhancement to our country here?" King asked the company executive.
"It's an interesting question," Bock responded. "I'm sure we'd have lots of people who would want to tackle that problem in their 20 percent time."
I doubt that Bock meant to imply that Google algorithms would be the judge and jury on what foreigners would best 'enhance' the U.S., but it's a scary thought. Then again, the current situation is untenable.