Semiconductor industry wants open international travel

Semiconductor industry associations want open international travel policies to allow workers to install and maintain chip manufacturing and other complex gear. (Getty Images)

The semiconductor industry is broadly lobbying governments far and wide for unified policies that allow international travel for essential workers in the electronics field.

Ten industry associations in Europe, Asia and the U.S.  issued a statement this week calling on “all governments to provide accommodations for and to harmonize policies to safely allow essential international travel for essential workers.”

The statement notes that cross-border mobility in the semiconductor and microelectronics industry is “vital to maintain critical manufacturing operations producing devices that are the foundation of our modern economy, countless economic sectors and each nation’s response to the pandemic.”

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The statement was endorsed by two U.S. associations—SEMI and Semiconductor Industry Association. They represent thousands of chipmakers and chip equipment makers.

In a blog, SEMI advocacy manager Karl Kailing, urged governments to permit international travel by supply chain engineers, technicians and executives with “minimal disruption to ensure any fast-tracked procedures apply directly to the semiconductor industry.”

He said technicians from a semi equipment company typically need to travel to semi factories abroad to install or repair specialized tools when local experts aren’t available. Also, semi-based applications like cloud computing must be implemented or optimized on-site for the equipment to reach full capacity.

China is negotiating fast-track travel protocols with countries in Asia and Europe and formalized a similar protocol with South Korea on May 1.  Last week, China reached a similar deal with Singapore.

Getting the U.S. and many other governments to agree on a common approach for essential travel for semi workers will be difficult, said Jack Gold, an industry analyst at J. Gold Associates.

However, he added, “the industry has a point” regarding international travel. “The tech industry, and especially the semi industry, is far-reaching across the globe and work can’t just be done via Zoom. It’s about producing physical product and that needs to be done in factories. Harmonizing travel would be a good thing. Having to deal with multiple countries’ travel regulations certainly does put increased pressure on the companies involved.”

In addition to SEMI and the SIA in the U.S., the statement was signed by eight others: American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce, Semiconductor Industry Association in China, Semiconductor Industry Association in EU, Semiconductor Industry Association in Japan, Semiconductor Industry Association in Korea, Semiconductor & Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association and Semiconductor Industry Association in Chinese Taipei.

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