US President Donald Trump’s visit to India has brought the H-1B visa issue into sharp focus.
The Trump government has been accused by the IT industry in India of discriminating against Indian workers seeking H-1B visas. Indian IT companies widely use H-1B and L1 visas to transfer highly-skilled workers to the US.
“This is part of the larger immigration policy of Trump and it is not only the workers but also their families who are suffering. As H-1B visas are not being extended, many families have had to evacuate, in some cases within a week. Spouses on dependent visas are also no longer able to work and this creates financial constraints," said Jayanth Kolla, partner, Convergence Catalyst, a deep tech research and advisory firm.
It is important that the Trump administration understands that the IT industry is growing at a robust 7.7% annually, and is expected to have a total revenue of $191 billion in FY20 and create two million jobs and that it is does not need challenges as this can impact its business, said Shivendra Singh, vice-president and head, global trade development at Nasscom.
Indian workers face two discriminatory challenges. The first is the increase in visa fees. The second is the provision in the amended Bill S386 that bars 50-50 companies (those with 50 employees of more in the US or 50% staff on H-1B work visas, from sponsoring employees on H-1B visas into the US.
“We are opposed to this, as this creates an unfair playing field. Companies will not be able to bring in specialized talent to address skills shortages and help their US-based clients, most of them being Fortune 500 companies," said Nasscom’s Singh.
There is also a misperception that Indian companies take the maximum H-1B visas, said Singh. Most H-1B visas, are actually taken by US tech firms such as Microsoft or Amazon, which enjoy higher approval ratings than the Indian companies.
About 80% of H-1B visa applications from companies such as TCS and Infosys were approved by US immigration authorities, while the rate of approval for American tech giants was as high as 99%, according to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).
Indian IT services companies are also increasing their local hiring numbers in the US, despite higher costs, because of increasing scrutiny and rejection of visa applications. Last year, Infosys had said that it planned to hire 1,000 people locally by 2023 for its just-launched Technology and Innovation Center in Arizona. HCL Technologies Ltd, too, has lowered its dependencies on H-1B visas by hiring more people locally. The company has about 17,000 employees in the US, 64.7% of whom are US citizens, according to estimates from industry insiders.