US immigration Bill skips IT issues

Written by P P Thimmaya | Debojyoti Ghosh | Debojyoti Ghosh | Bangalore | Updated: May 23 2013, 06:21am hrs
The US Immigration Bill, which received the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, has not addressed any major concerns of the Indian IT industry with the only concession given on increasing the H-1B visas from the current level of 65,000 to 110,000 subject to certain conditions.

The only amendment made to the Bill of hiking of the H-1B cap was done under the influence of US technology companies that did not want to lose the benefit of hiring highly-skilled labour from India. However, this hike is subject to the condition that the unemployment rate in the technology sector will not cross 4.5%.

Talking to FE, Nasscom president Som Mittal said, We are optimistic that the US Congress will not do anything that will impact our business in India or US and our concerns will be taken into consideration.

The Immigration Bill is now all set to be introduced for debate and voting in the Senate. However, the major concerns of the Indian IT industry have still not been addressed. The US economy contributes around 60% of the sectors revenue. Some of the key issues for the sector are: the outplacement clause in the Bill that prohibits Indian IT companies from deploying professionals on H-1B visas at customer locations in US, stringent conditions on placing Indian IT employees in American companies that could possibly displace US workers, increased cost of visa charges and the clause on putting up the list of H-1B employees on the US Department of Labour website.

The Bill will have to pass through the Senate, which is expected to see a spirited debate, and later it will have to go through the House of Representatives where there is expectation that further amendments would be brought into this legislation.

We are quite sure that the US government will understand the implications as the impact will be equally on both Indian companies and American firms. We are just a service provider to the US companies, Mittal said.

The Immigration Bill has become a hotly debated issue for the Indian IT industry as it is likely to make it tougher for Indian companies to operate in the US.

The big concern has always been on restricting the number of H-1B visas with a view generally expressed in the US that it is taking away local jobs.

The demand for H-1B visas which is currently capped at 65,000 is dependent on the prevailing economic conditions in the US and this is reflected in the time taken to reach this cap in terms of applications being submitted. In 2013, the US received close to 135,000 applications and got filled up in a span of just under five days, but in 2012, it more than two-and-half-months to reach this cap and a year before this, the time taken was even more.