Washington: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has raised the issue of tightening of the H-1B visa regime with his US counterpart Steven Mnuchin during their first meeting and highlighted the contribution of Indian companies and professionals to the US economy.
This was the second time Jaitley raised the H-1B visa issue with the US during his Washington visit to attend the annual Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. He had raised the issue with US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross earlier.
During their meeting Saturday, Jaitley and Mnuchin discussed a wide range of bilateral issues, in addition to the international cooperation against terror financing.
Jaitley highlighted the notable progress made in the India-US ties over the last few years and India’s ambitious reform agenda, which was creating new opportunities towards a deeper economic engagement between the two countries, a finance ministry statement said.
“Critical economic issues like Indo-US investment initiative, infrastructure collaboration and NIIF (National Investment and Infrastructure Fund), collaboration with the US for Smart Cities Development were deliberated upon during the meeting,” the statement said.
Jaitley raised the issue of H-1B visas for skilled professionals from India and highlighted contribution which Indian companies and professionals are making to the US economy, the statement said.
US President Donald Trump last week 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, a decision that would impact India’s $150 billion IT industry.
The Indian IT industry expressed serious concerns over this as these visas were mainly used by domestic IT professionals for short-term work in America.
The H-1B 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 IT companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year for their US operations. The US market accounts for about 60% of the revenue of the Indian IT industry.
Reforming the H-1B visa system was one of the major election promises of Trump.
As per several US reports, a majority of the H-1B visas every year are grabbed by Indian IT professionals. India accounts for the highest pool of qualified IT professionals, whose services go a long way in making American companies globally competitive.
Last month, IT industry body Nasscom president R. Chandrashekhar had said that the Indian IT industry actually contributes immensely to the US economy in terms of jobs that are created in America, both directly and indirectly.
“Close to half a million jobs have been supported in the US as of 2015. The number of jobs have also been growing at 10% per year as against a two per cent growth in the rest of the job market,” he had said.
Issues related to terror funding were also discussed during Jaitley’s meeting with the US treasury secretary, who appreciated India’s role, including the Indo-US cooperation in Financial Action Task Force.
Jaitley also held bilateral meetings with the finance ministers of Sweden, France and Bangladesh. The discussions covered a wide spectrum of bilateral collaboration to strengthen the cross-country relationships.
He also held a bilateral meeting with World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim among others.
Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das held bilateral meetings with New Development Bank (NDB) President K.V. Kamath and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) president Gilbert F. Houngbo separately. Various policy issues regarding NDB and IFAD were discussed during the meeting.
Jaitley, currently on a US trip, is accompanied by RBI governor Urjit Patel, Das and chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian among other officials. PTI