LA’s Ukrainian Community Seeks More Visas for Country’s Tech Workers

Pat Maio
Pat Maio has held various reporting and editorial management positions over the past 25 years, having specialized in business and government reporting. He has held reporting jobs with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, Dow Jones News and other newspapers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
LA’s Ukrainian Community Seeks More Visas for Country’s Tech Workers
Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has rocked the latter’s fledgling tech and venture capital landscape, and prompted calls from Ukrainian community leaders in Los Angeles to expand the H-1B visa program to accommodate possible refugees.

“We need to get people out of Ukraine and get them working,” Laryssa Reifel, president of the Ukrainian Culture Center in East Hollywood, told dot.LA.

To that end, Reifel said that she and other leaders in the city’s Ukrainian community are expected to meet in coming days with Rep. Adam Schiff—the Democrat who represents California’s 28th congressional district and chairs the House Intelligence Committee—to lobby for expanded hiring practices by U.S. companies offering H-1B visas.

“If we are staring down the precipice of 5 million refugees hitting the Polish border trying to escape Russian oppression—and that’s if—then you are talking about potentially creating visas for millions of people to go to a myriad of countries, most of which are likely to be NATO countries,” said Reifel, a first-generation Ukrainian-American and one of roughly 112,000 people of Ukrainian descent who call California home. “One of those nations is likely to be the U.S., in which case the kind of visa you might open up for them is the H-1B.”

In a statement to dot.LA, Schiff said the U.S. “has a moral duty to help civilians who are now in harm’s way to find safe harbor.”

“I will work to support efforts to resettle Ukrainian refugees here in the United States, in California, and in Los Angeles, through both new and existing avenues such as visa programs, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on a bipartisan basis,” Schiff said.

The H-1B visa program is somewhat of a political hot potato in the U.S.—with detractors long arguing for tighter caps on how many workers should be granted visas, and where they should come from. Tech industry employers, on the other hand, have lobbied for looser restrictions given difficulties encountered in hiring U.S.-trained professionals in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the U.S. has selected nearly 132,000 H-1B visa applicants from around the globe, with specific caps imposed on how many people per country can come to the U.S. under the temporary work program. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, some of the largest local tech employers of H-1B visa workers include video game developer Activision Blizzard, social media platforms Snap and TikTok, electric automaker Rivian and Disney-owned streaming service Hulu.

As the military conflict in Ukraine escalates, Reifel wants the U.S. to considerably boost the number of H-1B workers who can arrive from the country. Only 548 Ukraine-born applicants petitioned for H-1B visas in the 2019 fiscal year—roughly 0.1% of the approximately 421,000 people who applied globally, and well behind the likes of India (approx. 314,000 petitions) and mainland China (approx. 50,000 petitions).

Reifel said ramping up the number of visas granted to Ukrainian workers is important given deteriorating conditions in the country that are impacting the Ukraine-based employees of U.S. firms. She said she’s aware of “a number of companies in Southern California and in Silicon Valley, in particular, who have employees in Ukraine who are in distress”—though she declined to identify which companies, citing fear of retribution to them and their workers in Ukraine by Russian aggressors.

Despite a deep pool of tech talent, Ukraine’s startup scene remains small compared to other European countries. Last year saw 28 venture capital-backed companies headquartered in Ukraine raise a combined $10.4 million in funding, according to PitchBook data.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


Plus Capital Partner Amanda Groves on Celebrity Equity Investments

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
PLUS Capital​’s Amanda Groves.
Courtesy of Amanda Groves.

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Amanda Groves talks about how PLUS Capital advises celebrity investors and why more high-profile individuals are choosing to invest instead of endorse.

As a partner at PLUS, Groves works with over 70 artists and athletes, helping to guide their investment strategies. PLUS advises their talent roster to combine their financial capital with their social capital and focus on five investment areas: the future of work, future of education, health and wellness, the conscious consumer and sustainability.

Read more Show less

Rivian Stock Roller Coaster Continues as Amazon Van Delivery Faces Delays

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Rivian Stock Roller Coaster Continues as Amazon Van Delivery Faces Delays
Courtesy of Rivian.

Rivian’s stock lost 7% yesterday on the back of news that the company could face delays in fulfilling Amazon’s order for a fleet of electric delivery vans due to legal issues with a supplier. The electric vehicle maker is suing Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) over a pricing dispute related to the seats that the supplier promised, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read more Show less