IT industry body Nasscom today said the US’ latest memo on H-1B visas would have “little impact” on Indian IT firms as they have already started applying for visas for higher-level specialised professionals this year. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently come out with a policy memorandum saying companies applying for visas must provide “evidence to establish that the particular position is one in a specialty occupation”. The new H-1B guideline rescinds a memorandum issued in December, 2000.
Seeking to play down the impact on outsourcing companies, Nasscom said the memorandum “reinforces existing practice by adjudicators and clarifies requirements for certain computer professionals”.
“The clarifying guidance should have little impact on Nasscom members as this has been the adjudicatory practice for years and also as several of our member executives have noted recently, they are applying for visas for higher level professionals this year,” Nasscom said in a statement.
Nasscom counts IT outsourcing firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro as well as American firms like Cognizant, Microsoft and IBM as members.
It added that the demand for additional evidence showing that the said job is complex/specialised and requires professional degrees mentioned in the memo has been the de facto requirement for years. India accounts for a significant portion of the H-1B visas, which are non-immigrant visas used by American firms to employ foreign workers that require specific expertise.
USCIS — a government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the US — has emphasised that the H-1B visa programme should help US companies recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country.
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USCIS issues about 65,000 H-1B visas in general category and another 20,000 for those applicants having higher education (Masters and above) from US universities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Nasscom said the H-1B visa system exists specifically because of the “persistent shortage” of highly-skilled domestic IT talent in the US.
The US accounts for over 60 per cent of the export revenues of the Indian IT industry. “Nasscom member companies have and will continue to provide skilled talent and solutions to fill that gap and keep US companies competitive globally,” it added.
However, industry watchers believe that coupled with immigration pushbacks being seen in other geographies like the UK and Singapore, the overall impact would make movement of labour difficult and operation costlier in the short term.
During his election campaign, US President Donald Trump had promised stricter immigration laws and protection of local jobs. An US legislation (Lofgren Bill) was introduced that proposed doubling of the minimum wages of H1-B visa holders to $130,000.
Indian firms like TCS, Infosys and Wipro — on their part — have been reducing their dependence on H-1B visas, ramping up local hiring to meet requirement.