IT industry cautiously optimistic on US visa move

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Bengaluru | Published: March 25, 2015 1:04:11 AM

It’s turning out to be IT’s season. In a move that could benefit Indian tech companies and workers, US President Barack Obama...

Barack Obama, barack obama afghanistan plan, president obama afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, US, us afghanistan war, us afghanistan relations, us afghan war, Afghanistan, Taliban, John KerryUS President Barack Obama announced the easing of regulations on L-1B short-term work visas. (Reuters)

It’s turning out to be IT’s season. In a move that could benefit Indian tech companies and workers, US President Barack Obama announced the easing of regulations on L-1B short-term work visas. This has been viewed as a recognition of the need to tap the global talent pool, especially from countries such as India. However, the Indian IT industry is awaiting the fine print.

Obama in his address to the Select USA Summit said, “My administration is going to reform the L-1B visa category, which allows corporations to temporarily move workers from a foreign office to a US office in a faster, simpler way. And this could benefit hundreds of thousands of non-immigrant workers and their employers that, in turn, will benefit our entire economy and spur additional investment.”

The decision of the US government could come as welcome relief for Indian technology services companies that of late have been faced with rejection rates of as high as 53% in L-1B visas. Shivendra Singh, vice-president, global trade development, Nasscom, struck a cautious note, telling FE: “We will await the detailed guideline on L-1B visas before making a final assessment.”

According to Singh, Nasscom has raised certain issues with regard to L-1B visas that centres around the definition of ‘specialised knowledge professionals’ and restrictions on size of the companies that can use these work permits.

These issues have become grey area for Indian IT companies in an ever-changing industry. Further, these visas are generally issued to companies that have a minimum of 1,000 employees or have a certain revenue. Singh said Nasscom’s stand has been that there should be a level playing field with regard to issuing L-1B visas.

Obama’s announcement is a continuation of an executive order of November 2014. “One of the things that would make America even more attractive to businesses and that would grow our economy and shrink our deficits, and keep this country safer, stronger and smarter, would be a comprehensive immigration reform package,” he said at the summit.

The work visas to Indian technology professionals in the US has become a contentious issue with a Bill also being passed by the US Senate that puts numerous restrictions on the use of H-1B visas. However, this Bill is yet to be passed by the House of Representatives, which has come out with is own version that does not include these provisions.

Recently, the US government decided to provide work permits for spouses of H-1B visa holders that allow them to take up jobs. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting applications for work permits from May 26 subject to certain conditions.

The US gives out 65,000 H1-B visas every year, the majority of which are bagged by the large Indian IT firms like TCS, Infosys and Wipro. This six-year work permit allows IT professional to take their spouses but they are given only the H-4 dependent status. This makes them ineligible to work or get a social security number.

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