NEW DELHI :
India is constantly engaging the American government on the issue allowing skilled Indian workers to stay on in the US and also pointed out that highly skilled Indian professionals are also engaged in the fight against covid-19 in various fields including medicine and developing solutions for firms fighting the epidemic, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said Wednesday.
Addressing the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) in New Delhi, Shringla said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had discussed the issue of H1B visas -- the non-immigrant visa that allows US firms to employ foreign workers in speciality jobs popular with Indian IT professionals -- that the Trump administration plans to review and restrict, with US president Donald Trump during his visit to India in February.
“In our engagements, we have emphasized that this has been a mutually-beneficial partnership which should be nurtured. The Prime Minister had also underlined during President Trump’s visit to India that ‘the most important foundations of this special friendship between India and America are our people-to-people relations. Be it professionals or students, Indian Diaspora has been the biggest contributor to this in the USA,’" Shringla said.
The comments come against the backdrop of reports that the Trump administration is looking at imposing new restrictions on H1B visas, premised on the belief that foreign scientists, engineers and other professionals harm the job prospects of US graduates. Research has however proved this wrong with the Washington based National Foundation for American Policy, a non-profit organization stating that H1B visa holders do not adversely affect US workers.
“The onset of the covid-19 pandemic in the US and the attendant impact on the U.S. economy has led to a change in the situation," Shringla said adding: “We were able to intervene early on in our lockdown with the US Government on the issue of temporary relief for H1B visa holders whose visas were expiring in this period, on a case-by-case basis."
“We have continued to stress that the economic and trade linkages are a strong pillar of our strategic partnership, particularly in technology and innovation domains. High skilled Indian professionals working in the US through H1B and related non-immigrant visa regimes bridge the crucial skill gap and provide technological and competitive edge to the US companies," he said.
“We have also highlighted that high-skilled Indian professionals are engaged in the fight against covid-19 across various fields including doctors, nurses, tech workers developing solutions for companies fighting the epidemic. We hope the review of non-immigration visa by the US Government will take into account the long term benefits of H1B visa for US competitiveness and not affect provision of essential services at this critical hour," Shringla said.
In his speech, the foreign secretary said that the covid-19 pandemic had disrupted global supply and value chains, slowed down economic activities, and pushed economies to the brink of recession.
“It is the digital space which has allowed us to shield ourselves from some of the most drastic economic fallouts of this outbreak. That we have been able to resume a good part of our economic activity can be attributed to our achievements on the digital front. We are hopeful that building on our capabilities and successes, we will be able to transform this moment of immense challenge into a series of immense opportunities and emerge as the "nerve centre of global supply chains" as envisioned by Modi, he added.