The government today exuded confidence that the US administration will take into account the benefits Indian IT firms brought in for American companies when it goes for the visa policy review. “We fully believe when they do the review, they will take into account the benefits that have gone to the American public and companies, the mutually beneficial relationship between Indian companies and them and based on that, they will take a decision,” IT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters here. Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump had signed an executive order for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme, the most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals, to stop “visa abuses”.
Acting on his ‘Buy American, Hire American’ pledge, Trump has sought to replace the lottery system for issuing H-1B work visas with a merit-based approach. The US has also accused top Indian IT firms TCS and Infosys of “unfairly” cornering the lion’s share of the H1B work visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system. Apart from the US, other countries like Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have also initiated similar steps to safeguard jobs for locals and raise the bar for foreign workers.
On its part, Indian government and Indian IT body Nasscom have been engaging with US authorities to highlight that there is shortage of highly-skilled domestic talent in America in IT, healthcare, education, and other fields and that is a gap which Indian IT companies fill. The H-1B visa programme is most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals to work on customer sites. Every year, the US grants 65,000 H-1B visas, while another 20,000 are set aside for those with US advanced degrees.
Any change in visa norms can affect the movement of labour as well as spike operational costs for IT players. Most Indian IT companies get over 60 per cent of their revenues from the North American market. Indian IT firms have also been tweaking their business model to hire more locals and deploying more automation to tide over these visa-related challenges.