Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-anticipated meeting with US President Donald Trump is expected to feature a discussion around the H-1B visa restrictions, a move that has put the Indian IT sector under further stress. Industry feels that while Modi will look to drive home the point that such restrictions could impact the relationship between the IT sectors of both the countries, Trump may not be receptive to the idea of any relaxation of the norms. Over 60% of the revenues of the Indian IT services firms come from the US. The Trump administration has been looking to reduce the flow of skilled foreign workers thus saving jobs of American tech professionals. Modi’s meeting with Trump on Monday at 3 pm (Tuesday 1 am IST) comes amidst a backdrop of public pronouncements by the US administration of “buying American, hiring American”.
The key restriction around the suspension of premium processing of H-1B visas is expected to come up for discussions. The US has temporarily suspended the provision of premium processing, with the help of which Indian IT firms secured visas at short notice. Talking to FE, Nasscom chairman Raman Roy said the H-1B visa issue is the microcosm of the Indo-US issues, to be seen in a larger context. “Indian IT companies have added so much value to American economy over the years,” he said.
There is a perception that large firms from India corner majority of these 65,000 work permits issued annually. The reality is that only six of the top 20 H-1B recipients were Indian companies in FY15 and all Indian IT companies cumulatively account for less than 20% of the total number of such visas, according to Nasscom.
A paper presented by a US think tank National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) has said the top seven India based IT companies received only 9,356 H-1B petitions for employment in FY16, which was drop of 37% when compared to FY15.
Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar told FE that the US administration has maintained a status quo on H-1B visa regulations. “We are hoping that the two leaders will look at strengthening the IT business relationship because it is something that has worked well for both countries.”
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A growing number of Indian IT companies are increasing their local presence in the US, in a move to tick the right boxes. Infosys has announced that it would hire 10,000 American companies with 5,000 of them in FY18. This plan will also include opening of four development centres.
Wipro has stated that it would have around 50% of its employees in US who are locals during the first quarter of FY18. TCS claimed it has recruited more than 12,500 US employees from 2012-2016 and expects hiring in US this year to remain on par or even exceed previous numbers. The Indian IT industry has consistently maintained they are not taking away the jobs from the US market but fulfilling the shortfall in the skills required. A senior industry official on condition of anonymity said, “We did not ask them to start the H-1B programme and one can see the available statistics to realise the shortage of skills in the US.”