Foreign ministry says no executive order on H-1B visas have been signed so far, only three private bills have been introduced in the US House of Representatives
New Delhi: India on Thursday said it remained in dialogue with the Trump administration and the US Congress at senior levels on the introduction of bills that call for more than doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000—making it difficult for firms to use the programme to replace American employees with foreign workers, including from India.
“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," said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup in response to a question on concerns expressed by Indian software companies on the move.
“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," Swarup said.
“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 adding that Indian IT companies were contributing to the US economy by increasing the competitiveness of US firms.
The latest of the three legislations cited by Swarup was introduced in the US House of Representatives which among other things calls for more than doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000.
The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 introduced by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren prioritises market-based allocation of visas to those companies willing to pay 200% of a wage calculated by survey, eliminates the category of lowest pay, and raises the salary level at which H1B dependent employer are exempt from non-displacement and recruitment attestation requirements to greater than $130,000. This is more than double of the current H1B minimum wage of $60,000 which was established in 1989 and since then has remained unchanged.
Indian IT firms have been worried about business and employment prospects in the US following Republican party candidate Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States. Trump has called for US companies to hire Americans as he pushes ahead with his election promise to create jobs at home.
Last month, the worries of Indian tech companies were exacerbated by comments from senator Jeff Sessions, US president Donald Trump’s nominee for the post of attorney general, who said the new administration would push for legislative measures to curb the alleged misuse of H1B and L1 work visas issued to IT professionals, a significant number of which are cornered by Indians.
Trump himself has listed immigration reform among five executive actions he plans to take on assuming office. They include asking the department of labour to investigate “all abuses of the visa programmes that undercut the American worker".
Under the H1B visa programme, US-based companies hire highly skilled foreign workers, up to a maximum of 85,000 a year—65,000 hired abroad and 20,000 from among foreign nationals studying in the US.
The H1B visas are used by companies hiring Indian techies while the L1 is used for intra-company transfers. The multibillion-dollar Indian IT industry’s exports are worth $108 billion, 60% of which goes to the US market.
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