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Google says immigration rules are making it hard to hire top AI talent

Hugh Langley   

Google says immigration rules are making it hard to hire top AI talent
  • Google wants the US to change immigration rules to help it hire AI talent.
  • It told the US Department of Labor the list of roles considered scarce must be broadened.

As the artificial-intelligence wars heat up, Google says immigration rules must change if the US is to attract the talent needed to stay ahead.

The search giant on Wednesday filed a letter to the US Department of Labor arguing for changes to rules on which types of jobs are considered scarce in the US.

To get an employment-based green card, foreign-born employees often go through a process of permanent labor certification (referred to as PERM), in which their employer must make the case that there's a shortage of available workers in the US to fill the role.

But the US Department of Labor has a list of "pre-certified" occupations for which it considers there to be a lack of available talent. The list includes physical therapists and professional nurses, as well as immigrants of "exceptional ability" in the arts and sciences. If you're in one of these roles, the route to a green card is easier and faster.

Google is arguing that the list, referred to as Schedule A, needs to be broadened to include "critical" AI and cybersecurity-related fields. Google says the list, which was last updated in 2005, needs to be updated more frequently to adapt to changing labor needs.

The company wrote that the department "originally intended Schedule A to be a tool for responding to labor shortages," continuing, "Since it has not been updated in 20 years, Schedule A does not reflect current labor shortages."

Of course, Google spends a lot of the letter underlining the massive opportunity in AI and why it's crucial that the immigration rules adapt accordingly.

"We project that our need for AI Engineer roles, including Software Engineer, Research Engineer, and Research Scientist roles, will increase significantly in the coming years," Google wrote.

It later added, "AI advancements offer incredible promise, but the lack of skilled professionals threatens to hinder their full potential."

The Department of Labor previously announced it was considering expanding the list of pre-certified roles to particularly account for occupations in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and called for input from companies.

As Google and just about every other tech company realign themselves around AI, there's a red-hot talent war taking place to hire the best and the brightest minds. Google is arguing that it needs to look abroad to close the gap and that there's a shortage of US cybersecurity and AI talent.

The bar to hiring employees on green cards has also become harder for tech companies that have spent the past two years laying off employees. Companies have to prove that laid-off employees aren't suited for roles offered to foreign workers. They must also notify recently laid-off employees who are potentially suitable for a role before filing a PERM application for a foreign worker.

Consequently, companies have cut back on offering to put employees on US green-card tracks. Amazon recently suspended new green-card sponsorships until the end of 2024. Google also hit pause in January 2023 and told employees earlier this year that applications wouldn't open again until the first quarter of 2025 at the earliest, an employee with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Are you a current or former Googler with a tip? You can contact Hugh Langley through the encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram (628-228-1836) or via email.

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