Microsoft Says H-1B Workers Included In Layoffs

In a letter dated Tuesday, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith responded to Sen. Grassley in somewhat ambiguous terms, saying only that H-1B and other temporary work visa holders were among those laid off in January, and that it's too early to say how many more H-1Bs might be affected.

Microsoft in January laid off 1,400 workers and revealed plans to cut an additional 3,600 jobs over the subsequent 18 months. The initial cuts affected Microsoft's research and development, marketing, sales, finance, legal, IT operations and human resources departments, but Smith said Microsoft hasn't yet decided where the additional job cuts will take place.

For years, Microsoft has urged Congress to scrap H-1B visa limits, and Smith's letter to Sen. Grassley included some pointed statements. For example, Smith said technology and engineering positions account for about 90 percent of Microsoft's H-1B workforce, and suggested that government delays in processing residence permits had kept this figure high.

"Many of these H-1B employees have been seeking permanent resident status for many years and would no longer be dependent on their H-1B visas but for multiyear delays in the green card process," Smith wrote.

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Another long-standing Microsoft argument against H-1B limits is that finding homegrown engineering talent is an increasingly difficult task. Smith cited recent research that showed temporary residents earned in excess of 40 percent of engineering and computer science degrees at U.S. universities, and 59 percent for doctoral degrees in these fields.

"With these factors taken together, we do not expect to see a significant change in the proportion of H-1B employees in our workforce following the job reductions," Smith wrote.