India may take up the work visa issue with US authorities during the visit of finance minister Arun Jaitley to the US. Jaitley on Wednesday indicated that he would take up the visa issue with the US authorities during his visit. “These (IT industry issues) are matters of discussion with the appropriate authorities there. Once I do discuss and get an opportunity, I will let you know,” he told reporters when asked whether he would take up the concerns of the Indian IT sector with the US administration.
The Indian IT industry has expressed concerns over the US government’s clampdown on the rules for H-1B visa, which is primarily used by domestic IT professionals for short-term work. US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop its “abuse” and ensure that the visas are given to the “most-skilled or highest paid” petitioners.
Jaitley was scheduled to leave on a five-day visit to the United States on Wednesday night to attend the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF as well as deliberations of G20 nations. During his stay in Washington and New York, he will hold meetings with American CEOs and institutional and pension fund investors, where he will pitch India as a favourable investment destination. The finance minister is also slated to hold a meeting with the US Treasury Secretary.
Industry body Nasscom warned that the US’ move to replace the lottery system for issuing H-1B work visas with a merit-based approach could have “unintended consequences” even as it sought to downplay any immediate impact on IT companies this year. “No new changes are being implemented immediately … Nothing is being proposed that would impact or change the FY18 H-1B lottery that is currently underway,” Nasscom said in a statement on Wednesday. The proposed changes are forward-looking and non-specific, it contended.
Another industry body Assocham also expressed concern over the tightening of the visa norms. “…Indian IT companies are bound to face disruptions by way of higher costs and even some laying off work force back home, as the rising rupee is aggravating the situation further for the technology export firms,” it said. Indian IT firms, however, are confident of sailing through the changes being proposed by the US. “We continue to invest in the local communities in which we operate, including hiring local American top talent, bringing education and training to our clients to shrink the skills gap in the US, and working with policymakers to foster innovation,” Infosys said in a statement.
TCS, too, has exuded confidence that these issues can be tackled through greater engagement. It has also said it will “tweak” its business model to continue to be in compliance with regulations. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. Indian technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year for their US operations.
The US market accounts for over 60 per cent of the Indian IT sector exports, and any clampdown in the visa regime is expected to result in higher costs and shortage of skilled workers for the $110 billion Indian outsourcing industry. On the Australian government’s move to eliminate the 457 visa category would not have a major impact on visas granted to Indian IT workers, Nasscom said, “… it is a surprise and seems to be have been driven by domestic political compulsions where we are seeing immigration as a matter of huge political concern within the current geo political environment.”