India Conveys concern to USA on proposed changes in H1B visa norms

Carlos Barria  Reuters

What does it mean for tech workers applying for these visas?

This comes even as a Democrat Senator Zoe Lofgren has tabled a bill - called The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 which will raise minimum the salary of an H-1B worker to Dollars 130,000 from the USD 60,000 prescribed earlier.

- It will eliminate the Master's Degree exemption for employers. In a year, almost 200,000 H-1B visa applications are approved, including visa renewals, extensions and other exempt categories, according to industry estimates.

It also seeks to reverse the Obama administration's decision to allow spouses of H1B Visa holders to work in that country. Around 85,000 H1-B visas are issued by the U.S. every year.

With the effect coming into force Indian companies will be the big bearer of losses since they are the major users of the visa.

Shivendra Singh, head global trade development at Nasscom, said that the body has worked with various stakeholders -like think tanks, politicians, policy makers -to bring home the point that Indian companies support 4,11,000 jobs in the United States, contribute by way of $5 billion in taxes and work with 75% of the Fortune 500 companies.

The legislation reserves 20 per cent of the annually allocated H-1B visas for start-ups and small firms, having 50 or fewer employees, to ensure small companies have a chance to compete for high-skilled labor. Legislation of U.S. had now announced a new law regarding the salaries.

The BSE IT index fell over 4 per cent.

Tech Mahindra went down as much as 4.23% to close at Rs 451.75 and HCL Technologies declined 3.67% to Rs 808.85.

According to Nasscom, the USA issues 85,000 H1-B visas every year, out of which Indians get about 60,000 visas.

Is there a silver lining?

Lofgren said, "it removes the "per country" cap for employment based immigrant visas so that all workers are treated more fairly and to move to a system where employers hire the most skilled workers without regard to national origin". 90% of Indian technology workers use H1B visas.

According to Shivendra Singh, Vice President - Global Trade Development, Nasscom: "We support the "Hire American" policy of Trump, but there is a supply problem".

Ministry of External Affairs has said India's interests and concerns on the issue have been conveyed both to the US administration and the US Congress at senior levels.

There is no official word, however, from the White House as yet on the likely changes or the timeline for their implementation, thereby adding to the uncertainties among Indian IT companies that are gearing up for the next annual filing of H-1B petitions, set to begin on April 1. "India, on the contrary, has been resilient and has time and again proved to be America's long standing friend", said Rajiv Dabhadkar, founder of the National Organisation for Software and Technology Professionals, which works for Indian workers overseas.

"We continue to focus on localisation".

"Indian IT is already creating jobs and have been investing in form of setting up delivery centers and local hiring".

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