Amazon Halts Green Card Sponsorships Amid Tech Sector Instability

Amazon has declared that it will not sponsor new US green cards for foreign workers for the remainder of the year, signaling ongoing challenges in the technology sector's job market.

by Faruk Imamovic
Amazon Halts Green Card Sponsorships Amid Tech Sector Instability
© Getty Images/Gareth Cattermole

Amazon has declared that it will not sponsor new US green cards for foreign workers for the remainder of the year, signaling ongoing challenges in the technology sector's job market. This decision underscores a broader trend of instability within the tech industry, which has seen numerous layoffs and hiring freezes across various companies.

Amazon's Strategic Pause

Amazon's decision to halt all new PERM filings—the initial step toward obtaining a green card in the United States—through the end of 2024, as reported by Business Insider, is not an isolated event.

The PERM process, managed by the US Department of Labor, ensures that the employment of foreign workers does not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, or working conditions of US workers. Amazon's memo explained that this pause is a response to the current labor market conditions and the requirements for immigrant workers.

"It was determined that we are unable to continue with PERM filings through 2024," the memo stated. "We know this is disappointing, and we did not take this decision lightly." This pause is a continuation of a trend that started in 2023 when Amazon first suspended these applications.

The company plans to review the labor market conditions at the end of 2024 to decide whether it can reactivate the PERM program. The Impact of Tech Layoffs The wave of layoffs across Amazon and other tech giants has complicated the PERM process significantly.

Companies are now required to demonstrate that there are no qualified US workers available for the positions intended for foreign workers. This includes notifying individuals who were laid off in the past six months of any job openings before moving forward with PERM applications.

"To get a PERM application approved, an employer needs to show that there is no qualified US worker interested in filling the position," Jennifer Gordon, an immigration and labor law professor at Fordham University, told Business Insider.

"Given how many layoffs there have been recently across the tech industry, it's become difficult for them to sustain that claim." Amazon is also exploring "alternative immigration pathways" for affected employees, striving to find ways to extend their stay in the U.S.

"Due to government requirements for the Green Card process, we have temporarily paused our permanent labor certification program," an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider. "We know this is difficult for affected employees, and we're working hard to support them and find alternate immigration pathways as soon as possible." This situation is reflective of a soft labor market, where a surplus of laid-off US workers makes it increasingly difficult for companies to justify the hiring of foreign employees over domestic candidates.

"It could reflect Amazon's best guess about when the labor market will be less glutted with unemployed US workers," Gordon noted. Despite the setbacks, Amazon remains optimistic about the future of the US labor market and its eventual ability to resume filing PERM applications.

The company's decision to halt new green card sponsorships, however, marks a significant moment of reflection and strategy adjustment in response to the evolving economic landscape.

Amazon Halts Green Card Sponsorships Amid Tech Sector Instability© Getty Images/Alex Wong

Rethinking Work-Life Integration

In a separate discussion on workplace culture, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, shared his insights on the concept of work-life balance, which he believes is misleadingly termed.

During a 2018 event, Bezos expressed his preference for the term "work-life harmony," emphasizing that the traditional view of work and life as separate entities is flawed. "I get asked about work-life balance all the time," Bezos explained.

"And my view is, that's a debilitating phrase because it implies there's a strict trade-off." Bezos argues that happiness in one's professional life fuels energy and positivity at home, and vice versa, forming a virtuous circle rather than a balancing act.

This philosophy has guided his approach to leadership and personal well-being, suggesting that achieving enjoyment in work is a realistic goal, albeit challenging to attain. "Very few people ever achieve that," Bezos remarked in a conversation with actor Shah Rukh Khan and filmmaker Zoya Akhtar in Mumbai in 2020.

"If you can get your work life to where you enjoy half of it, that is amazing."

The Future of Tech Workforce Dynamics

As companies like Amazon signal a more conservative approach to employment and immigration, the tech industry may see a shift towards more localized hiring practices.

This could lead to increased opportunities for domestic workers but may also challenge the industry's ability to innovate and expand at its previous pace. The suspension of green card sponsorships also raises questions about the role of government policy in shaping the labor market.

With immigration being a hot-button issue in political discourse, the tech industry's future will likely be influenced by both economic conditions and legislative changes. This interplay between policy and employment underscores the need for tech companies to stay agile and proactive in their workforce management strategies.

Amazon's decision reflects a broader trend in the tech industry towards cautious workforce planning and a reassessment of global hiring strategies. As the sector continues to adapt to economic pressures and policy changes, the landscape of tech employment will undoubtedly evolve, requiring both workers and companies to navigate these changes with resilience and strategic foresight.