#ImmigrationMatters: Why The Tech Sector Needs Immigrants 

November 6, 2017 Chelsea Iversen

Greg Fullerton’s first experience with immigration was in Japan.

He spent four years working there as a English instructor, and the immigration process was complicated, he told us when we sat down to talk with him about why immigration matters. To get his work visa in Japan, he had to have a sponsor and visit the Japanese consulate in Korea – kind of an arduous process.

But it wasn’t anything close to what it takes to enter the U.S. now on a work visa.

Greg also met and married his wife while in Japan. His wife, a Japanese citizen, applied for green card status when they came to live in the U.S., and eventually she became naturalized as an American citizen. The process to apply for both was overwhelming, he explained to us. There was an incredible amount of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape to deal with before her immigration status could be changed.

Going through these challenges with his wife – without a lawyer, mind you – has helped him in his career. Today, Greg Fullerton is vice president of human capital at Tectonic, a technology services company. “I empathize with them quite a bit,” he told us, referring to the foreign nationals he helps recruit and sponsor. “I do understand what they’re going through, and it’s a big change for them to make.”

Business in the tech sector needs immigrants

The labor shortage in the U.S. is part of the reason the tech sector needs immigrants. It’s also one of the main reasons Greg and Tectonic are looking outside the country to fill open positions. Finding qualified American workers to fill positions is getting difficult. The best people for the job, he said frankly, are often not in the U.S. The foreign nationals he hires are highly qualified, and he has a much larger pool of talent to choose from.

Greg has hired six foreign national employees from Pakistan to work in the U.S. office, on a mix of H and L visa status, as well as other foreign nationals who work in and out of the office with the help of B visas. But the company still faces challenges recruiting technical talent because of complicated visa processes.

Though preferred, Greg told us that L visas aren’t easy to come by, so the company relies on H visas and renewals to get the much-needed developers and technical architects they need to stay relevant. That frustration extends to other tech positions as well. “Finding data scientists is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in recruiting,” he admitted.

#ImmigrationMatters “Finding data scientists is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in recruiting.” -Greg Fullerton, Tectonic

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On top of it all, the turnover in the IT space is unbelievable. Greg cited a survey he completed with a prior company, TEKsystems. They discovered that, amazingly, the average IT worker starts looking for his or her next job just two weeks after starting work. Greg routinely sees American tech workers stay at their jobs for months, not years.

Foreign national employees, on the other hand, bring critical skills and loyalty to the table, and Greg is grateful for it. The talent pool beyond the borders of the U.S. is expansive, and he’s found that retention is simply higher with visa-sponsored employees than it is with American citizens.

Why does immigration matter to Greg Fullerton?

The tech sector needs immigrants. yes, and foreign nationals are critical to the success of Tectonic. “We perform better as a company because of the people we help bring into the U.S.,” Greg said. But it’s not just about the company. To Greg, immigration is good for America as a whole. “Having people from different parts of the world makes us a better place, a better country, a better people,” he told us. “I think it strengthens our culture and our country.” 

Feeling inspired? We want to hear from you! To tell us why is immigration is important to you, submit your story here.

 

…and check out our #ImmigrationMatters hub for more stories of how immigration enables companies and people.

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