1. H1B visa talks: In first round, India, US fail to find solution, issue set to linger

H1B visa talks: In first round, India, US fail to find solution, issue set to linger

While assistant USTR Mark Linscott headed the US team for the talks, the Indian side was led by additional secretary in the commerce ministry Anup Wadhawan.

By: | New Delhi | Published: April 21, 2017 7:41 AM
While India treats the tightening of the visa programme by the US as a non-tariff barrier to services trade, the US continues to consider it mainly an immigration issue. (PTI)

The first round of talks between officials of India’s commerce and industry ministry and the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office, under the Donald Trump administration, this week saw both the sides willing to continue with the working groups and build on bilateral ties, but seemed to have differed over the vexed issue of the H1-B visa programmes for working professionals. While India treats the tightening of the visa programme by the US as a non-tariff barrier to services trade, the US continues to consider it mainly an immigration issue. This means the issue will linger on. While assistant USTR Mark Linscott headed the US delegation for the talks on April 18, the Indian side was led by additional secretary in the commerce ministry, Anup Wadhawan.

The four working groups relate to agriculture, goods and services, intellectual property rights and investment and manufacturing. India’s concerns about the H1-B visa issues were reinforced after US President Trump issued an executive order on Tuesday, ostensibly aimed at curtailing the alleged misuse of guest workers visa and promoting the “Buy American and Hire American” policy. The order effectively raises the bar for foreign guest workers used by US and Indian companies to do work in the US.

Sources, however, said that the new order, though against the spirit of free services trade, is unlikely to affect big Indian IT companies having huge presence in the US. This is because the order does not impose any moratorium on guest worker visas that Trump had pitched for during the campaign, called for during his presidential campaign, but called for an overhaul of the lottery system used to determine the metrics on which H-1B visas are sponsored to prevent abuse by body-shopping companies. As such, most of the Indian IT companies depute senior executives to the US, and not entry-level and poorly-qualified people. Indians make up for over 60% of the 85,000 such visas every year.

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While no new changes are being implemented immediately, Trump’s executive order directs the federal bureaucracy to enforce visa law more vigorously, and to study new ways to reform and restrict the H-1B system. Nothing is being proposed that would impact or change the FY18 H-1B lottery that is currently underway, according to IT industry body Nasscom. The proposed changes are forward-looking and non-specific. While extending support to root out any abuses in the H1-B system, NASSCOM, however, said: “In general, we believe that the current campaign to discredit our sector is driven by persistent myths, such as the ideas that H-1B visa holders are ‘cheap labour’ and ‘displace American workers who train their replacements’, none of which is accurate.

The fundamental issue is the shortage of highly-skilled domestic talent in the US, in IT, healthcare, education, and other fields.” The Indian IT industry has often complained it has been subjected to such anti-trade practices and that its contribution to the US economy is ignored by policymakers there. According to a Nasscom report released in September last year, Indian IT companies were providing more than 4 lakh jobs in the US, of which around 3 lakh were held by either US citizens or permanent residents. These companies also invested over $2 billion in the 2011-2013 period and paid a staggering $22.5 billion in taxes to the US during those years.

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    Matthew
    Apr 21, 2017 at 10:33 am
    Disney is a case in point where INDIANS on H1B's where brought in to replace the US personnel because they were lower cost. So stop the BS N com.. There is one case after another and it is clear that you tried to influence Mr. Trump during his campaign by contributing 500K to it.. We know who you are.. You lie in the name of Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant, Mphasis.. We know who you serve and who you lie for.
    Reply
    1. M
      Matthew
      Apr 21, 2017 at 10:30 am
      N com is lying through its teeth or they have no idea what they are talking about. The article is FAKE NEWS pushing an agenda that supposedly relates to a non issue. If Trumps move is so insignificant then why the urgent high level talks? The number one use of the H1B visa today is to ship farmer level skilled personnel to the US and sell them to the likes of FB, Google and so on. It is a giant scam leveled on the US Economy. How many times will I read the NONSENSE that America is lacking the skilled labour to do the work? This is only true when you re-phrase the statement with "America is lacking the skilled labour to do the work for the peanuts that an underskilled Indian immigrant is willing to do it for". I keep reading articles where Indians wanting to be proud of their country keep asking why do they leave? They leave because they hate their country.. That is why. A nice house is Alpharetta, GA is never coming to them in India.. So stop asking so stupidly why they leave
      Reply

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