How Trump’s H-1B visa crackdown is hurting Indian IT
Last week, a top US federal official informed lawmakers that the Trump administration plans to scrap a critical provision that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work legally in the US. The move is expected to impact over 70,000 spouses who currently hold H-4 visas. The clampdown—which will end an Obama administration rule that allowed spouses to seek employment—is essentially aimed at discouraging applicants from countries such as India and China, which account for a majority of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued every year.
What is an H-1B visa?
H-1B visas are a category of temporary visas issued by the US government to corporations that hire foreign workers for so-called specialized roles and skills. Critics of the H-1B programme have long argued it discriminates against American workers, while proponents argue it is essential to preserve a culture of innovation, as it allows companies to hire talent they say is not available in the country.
How are H-1B visas issued?
First, the company chooses workers they want to hire and then submits petitions on their behalf. Over the past decade or two, the number of applications have far exceeded the number of visas available and the threshold for the number of applications has been breached within the first five days of the application process. So, a lottery system has been put in place by the official immigration agency in the US to randomly choose petitions for processing.
Have companies ever misused the H-1B programme in the past?
Debatable. Critics of the H-1B programme have long argued that companies have deliberately hired more foreign workers at far lower salaries than what they would have had to pay out to local American workers, adding that the programme has contributed to an exponential increase in outsourcing from the US. American corporations have argued that the H-1B programme only looks to address the talent shortage in the US.
What changes has the Trump government made to the H-1B programme?
Besides the latest moves to scrap the H-4 visa programme, the Trump administration has also tightened the screening process for H-1B visas. According to media reports in the US, the immigration agency in the US is conducting more severe background checks for H-1B workers, scrutinizing firms that hire large number of H-1B employees and has also started delaying and denying visas to more applicants.
How do the latest changes affect Indian IT firms?
If the H-1B programme is scrapped, it would disrupt the traditional business model of Indian software services exporters and increase their cost of doing business in the US. If the H-4 visa programme for spouses is scrapped, it would also dissuade current H-1B visa holders and future H-1B applicants from seeking long-term employment in the US.
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