Donald Trump’s proposed US Bill — Protect and Grow American Jobs — once passed, is likely to pose trouble for over half-a-million Indian-origin IT-employees living in the US at present forcing them to move back to India and changing the way IT companies operate and hire people. The proposed bill is riddled with “onerous conditions” and places “unprecedented obligations” on both Indian IT companies and clients using H-1B visas, India’s top IT industry body Nasscom said. The bill proposes new restrictions to prevent the alleged abuse and misuse of H-1B visas. It tightens the definition of visa-dependent companies and imposes fresh restrictions in terms of minimum salary and movement of talent.
The bill that reflects President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” vision aimed at hiking manufacturing and protect local jobs for Americans can seriously dent chances of a large number of H-1B visa holders from India of staying in America anymore. Around 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be sent home if this bill sees the light of the day, a Hindustan Times report said citing an unidentified official at Immigration Voice, an advocacy body based in San Jose.
Draconian features of the bill
The bill prescribes not granting extensions to workers on H-1B visas whose application for Green Card for permanent residency in the US has been accepted. Currently, in practice, the 3-year H-1B visa gets an extension of up to another 3 years, and Indian IT employees use the extensions to stay put in the US if their Green Card application is approved. However, the new provision of granting no extensions may draw curtains on many Indians’ plans to continue working there.
Apart from prescribing higher minimum wages, the Bill places the onus on clients to certify that the visa holder is not displacing an existing employee for a tenure of 5-6 years. “That formulation has conditions which are extremely onerous and makes it very difficult for people to not just get the visa but also on how they can be used,” R Chandrashekhar, President, National Association for Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) told PTI. The Bill has been passed by the House Judiciary Committee and is now headed for the US Senate. “We do not know the exact timeline but we have been told it will come up early 2018,” he said. Chandrashekhar said another “extreme concern” is that “in the name of protecting American jobs, this has been applied only to the so-called visa-dependent companies that translates to Indian companies”. “There is no doubt we have been seeing an increasingly negative environment and this is a part of the protectionist, anti-globalisation trend,” he said referring to a slew of measures taken by the US in the recent past, including increased visa scrutiny, premium visa processing being put on hold for a few months etc.
Chandrashekhar also pointed out that the use of visas by Indian IT firms has fallen by 50 per cent in the last two years and that the number now stands below 10,000. “It is below 10,000, which is a minuscule fraction of 85,000 visas (H-1B visas) issued every year… how such onerous restrictions on 12-15 per cent of the visas that are being issued protect American workers, certainly defies logic,” he said. Chandrashekhar explained that the Bill proposes to raise the minimum wage substantially to about USD 100,000 if the company has to be exempted from the labour certification requirements. Also, the client deploying the H-1B visa worker will have to certify that no American worker will be displaced for the 5-6 year period.
Further, the software services provider will have to notify the US authorities if the client has displaced a worker, an obligation that is unprecedented, he said. Chandrashekhar added that many of these changes were “emotive and political” rather than being based on “economic arguments”. He said that Nasscom has shared its concerns with both Indian and the US governments. “…We will probably be having further interaction in next few months. In next couple of months, we expect to have interactions once again with the US authorities,” he added.