Indian IT professionals holding H-1B visas face the potential threat of being deported from the US along with several other visa holders reportedly totalling to around 400,000 people, as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans new regulations to prohibit extension of these work permits. Under the current regulations in the US, H-1B visa holders are allowed extension beyond the two three-year terms if a green card is pending. However, the new proposal, which is still being discussed, will prevent such extension, according to reports. This new proposal is in pursuance of US President Donald Trump’s theme of “buy American, hire American”, which is aimed at creating more jobs for American citizens. Such a proposal could potentially impact thousands of H-1B visa holders in the US, who are predominantly from India.
The $117-billion-plus Indian IT services export industry is heavily dependent on these H-1B visas to execute their technology projects in the US. For example, Infosys has around 20,000 people working in the US with over 14,000 of them on H-1B visas. Wipro had 14,000 people in the US in FY17 but 50% of these employees are American citizens. Similarly, TCS has claimed that it has been recognised as top employer in US in 2016 but did not share any numbers. The US accounts for nearly 60% of exports revenue of the India’s IT industry. The Indian IT industry has come under intense scrutiny in the US on the use of H-1B visas as it is one of the largest recipients. The US gives out about 65,000 H-1B visas annually. According to Nasscom, Indian IT industry’s trade body, around 71% of these H-1B visas are garnered by Indian nationals.
According to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a US-based think tank, the top seven India-based companies received only 9,356 new H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY2016, which was a drop of 37% from FY2015. These companies are: TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies, L&T Infotech and Mindtree. According to NFAP, the new H-1B petitions by the top seven India-based companies in 2016 accounted for just 0.006% of the US labour force. The Indian IT industry has also been targeted by various US lawmakers who have proposed various Bills to prevent outsourcing and placed severe conditions on the use of H-1B visas, which are seen as taking away American jobs. The latest Bill on ‘protect and grow American jobs has proposed new restrictions to prevent abuse and misuse of H-1B visas. It also tightens the definition of visa-dependent companies, and imposes fresh restrictions in terms of minimum salary and movement of talent.
Nasscom has said the Bill is packed with onerous conditions and places “unprecedented obligations on both Indian IT companies and clients using H-1B visas”. Nasscom has also flagged its concerns around visa-related issues with Senators, Congressmen and the US administration. It plans to soon engage in dialogues over the proposed legislation. Nasscom has constantly stressed that Indian IT companies are only fulfilling skill shortages in the US, and that they are making contributions to the American economy by paying taxes. “The more Congress and executive branch agencies restrict immigration, particularly the use of H-1B and L-1 visas, the more likely companies are to increase their investments outside the United States, both in their own offices and affiliates, and through contracting out to other companies,” Nasscom said.