H1B visa: Indian IT firms to plead case before Trump administration officials

CEOs of India’s top IT firms will meet with US officials from 20 February to try and dissuade Trump from raising requirements under H1B visa reforms


A file photo of R. Chandrashekhar, the president of Nasscom.  H1B visas may well come up during a conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Donald Trump slated for June, Chandrashekhar said. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
A file photo of R. Chandrashekhar, the president of Nasscom. H1B visas may well come up during a conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Donald Trump slated for June, Chandrashekhar said. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bangalore: India’s largest technology companies head to Washington this month to argue against President Donald Trump’s envisioned tightening of visa programmes that Silicon Valley and their own industry rely on to attract talent.

The chief executives of the country’s biggest IT services companies will meet with administration officials and lawmakers from 20 February to try and dissuade Trump’s team from raising requirements under the H-1B visa programme, said R. Chandrashekhar, the president of industry group Nasscom.

India’s largest IT services corporations, including Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Ltd, depend on the system to insert foreign talent on the ground to work with US clients.

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Trump’s administration is drafting an executive order aimed at overhauling the work-visa programmes used to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.

Curbs could transform the way American firms such as Apple Inc. and Indian firms such as Wipro Ltd recruit, to offset a dearth of homegrown US engineering talent.

Businesses would have to try to hire American first and if they opt for foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid—making hiring more expensive.

“We want to put across to the new administration and the lawmakers what would be lost by America closing those doors,” said Chandrashekhar, who will join the delegation on a four-day visit to the US capital.

Nasscom has already shared its concerns with its own government.

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“We have talked to the government, which will do what it needs to do; but we are parallelly pursuing our own course of action.”

It’s not clear how much force an executive order would carry if it’s signed by the president.

Congress is also working on visa reforms and the parties will have to cooperate to pass new laws.

Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, introduced a bill last week to tighten requirements for the H-1B work visa programme.

News of the draft executive order has sent Indian information technology (IT) stocks reeling this week and fuelled a sharp rise in inquiries to local placement firms from current H-1B visa holders exploring options back home.

Senior executives are putting together contingency plans in the event they can’t get enough workers into the US to work with their clients, which include many of America’s top banks and corporations.

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The topic may well come up during a conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump slated for June, Chandrashekhar said.

Nasscom encompasses nearly 2,400 technology companies across the country but Chandrashekhar said the CEO delegation will comprise mainly chief executives of companies that are the biggest users of H-1B visas. He declined to name them but data show the heaviest employers include Tata Consultancy, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra and Mindtree.

In New Delhi, foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said, “No executive order has been signed so far. All that has happened is that three private bills have been introduced in the US House of Representatives.”

“Such bills have been introduced in the past also and such bills have to go through the full Congressional process. So let us not prejudge the outcome.”

“We remain in dialogue with the Trump administration and the US congress at senior levels. They are fully aware of our position on this matter,” Swarup said. Bloomberg

Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.

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