Changes to the US H1-B visa policy would have to be passed by the country’s Congress, people familiar with the matter told Mint on Friday. Three bills seeking changes to the US H1-B visa policy that were pending before the US Congress had lapsed at the end of last year and new ones if any would take a while before they were passed, sources told Mint.

These remarks came on the back on news reports on Friday saying that the US Department of Homeland Security was proposing to revise the rules governing the sanction of H1-B visas aimed at attracting only the best and the brightest to the US.

H1-B is the most sought-after visa that Indian IT companies use to deploy their Indian staff on overseas projects. It allows them to deploy cheaper Indian staff on overseas projects, helping them save on salary bills. H1-B visa costs account for a significant chunk of IT companies’ expenses.

Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar on Thursday told Parliament that India was trying to convince the US that tapping into the Indian talent is in mutual benefit of the two countries.

"Issuing visas is the sovereign prerogative of other states. But at the same time there are very important economic and business and social interests...We are constantly in touch with the American system, the American government, members of the Congress to convince them that tapping into the Indian talent pool is for our mutual benefit," Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha, a PTI report said.

He said India has been successful in convincing the US to a "large extent as actually if you look at the numbers, the number of H1-B visas has been going up in the last few years even though the total rejection rate has been coming down".

Replying to a question during Question Hour in the House whether seven Indian IT majors were disqualified for H1-B visa by the US, Jaishankar said there was no disqualification but the count of visas issued has gone down.

"With regard to seven major Indian employers there is no disqualification on any of them. The number of visas for which they have applied to has come down in the last two years. Denial rates have also gone up," he said.

The minister added that denials rates have not gone up only for Indian companies but for those from other countries as well.

As regards to the seven companies, they got 3,828 new visas and 15,230 renewals of H1-B visas last year, he said.

As per USCIS statistics, the minister said a total of 116,031 initial or new H1-B petitions were processed and completed in fiscal 2019, out of which 27,707 were denied.

Jaishankar said in fiscal 2018, 1.25 lakh H1-B visas were issued to Indian nationals which accounted for 69.9% of the total 1.79 H1-B visa issued as per the US Department of State, according to the PTI report.


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