Commerce & Industries Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has asked the Indian IT professionals not to panic as the number of visas they currently get will not decline. She said that only the selection for such visas is getting tougher, but the ‘numbers are not changing’.
“No need of getting panicky… because the number of H-1B visas that we have got, we will continue to get that,” Ms Sitharaman said. “The lottery process is something I suppose they (the US) wanted to do a correction on. The numbers are not something they are changing… the numbers will not come down,” she added.
A mere 17 percent of total US visas go to Indian companies and a number of American firms benefit from services provided by Indian firms, she noted.
On changes in the selection process for H-1B visa, the minister hoped that “where the high skill set is required, they (US) would look for that, rather than for first-time graduates”.
In the US, President Donald Trump’s administration wants to replace the current lottery system with a more merit-based immigration policy. In April, Donald Trump had signed an executive order for tightening the H-1B visa programme to stop its “abuse” and ensure the visas are given to the “most-skilled or highest paid” petitioners, a decision that is seen to impact India’s $155 billion IT industry.
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After the executive order, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had taken up the issue at the highest levels with his US counterparts, in efforts to save Indian IT companies from a potential surge in costs, and IT professionals from possibly losing their jobs.
Jaitley had taken up the visa issue with the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. According to a finance ministry statement, he discussed the issue of H-1B work permit for skilled professionals from India and highlighted the contribution of Indian companies and professionals to the US economy.
Earlier last month, Sitharaman had said that it is not the case that just Indian companies are in the US, several big US companies are in India too. She had further said that the nations, which are creating hindrances in the free movement of professionals, had provided a commitment to the WTO on the number of work visas they will issue and India can question them if they don’t live up to their commitments. However, she had later added that although India isn’t questioning the Sovereign right of a country to issue visas, still the issue of visa process review is being discussed with the US and will wait for the Visa review process to end before commenting further on the issue.
Earlier the US, in a White House briefing, had accused India’s leading IT firms like TCS and Infosys, for unfairly garnering a large share of H-1B visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system and flooding the system with applicants, upping their chances of success in the lottery draw. This US charge has been refuted by NASSCOM, stating that only 6 of the top 20 H-1B Recipients were Indian companies and that TCS and Infosys together received only 7,504 approved H-1B Visas in FY15.