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Jan 05, 2018 07:45 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

H-1B visa issue: Trump administration's move will have a short-term impact for India

At present, the H-1B visa system, which is lottery based, allows a maximum of 65,000 visas for the general category and a further 20,000 people who have a US master's degree from an accredited institution.

Neha Alawadhi @alnehaa

Nearly a year after US President Donald Trump took office, the H-1B visa issue seems to have returned to haunt Indian techies, but if the unconfirmed proposals go through, they will at best have a short-term impact for India.

US-based news portal McClatchy reported in December that the Trump administration is considering new regulations that could potentially “stop hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from keeping their H-1B visas while their green card applications are pending”.

The US is specifically looking at whether it can reinterpret the "may grant" language of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act to stop allowing the extension of H-1B visa holders for “beyond the allowed two three-year terms if a green card is pending,” McClatchy reported.

“The proposed move would have a short-term impact on technology firms,” said Rajesh Gupta, Partner, India Operations at Information Services Group.

“A larger impact would be if, in addition to the current proposal, the US also reduces the current cap on the number of H-1B visa applications each year,” he added.

At present, the H-1B visa system, which is lottery based, allows a maximum of 65,000 visas for the general category and a further 20,000 people who have a US master's degree from an accredited institution.

The over USD 155 billion Indian IT outsourcing industry has been a beneficiary of the H-1B visa programme, the most favoured route to send Indian engineers to the US.

The industry has for long been accused of misusing the current system to send more people to the US, a claim it has consistently denied.

In April last year, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order named “Buy American and Hire American” in which he tasked the US Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Labor, and Secretary of Homeland Security “to suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries.”

If the current considerations, as reported by McClatchy, do get formally proposed, there will be an adverse impact on Indian IT services companies and the US economy, according to Sanchit Veer Gogia, CEO of research company Greyhound Research.

“Skilled foreign workers who come to work in the United States by the route of H1-B visas don’t just directly supplement the US IT industry with specialised skill sets, they also contribute indirectly to other industries in the US. Often H-1B workers bring their families along and thereby bring additional business for other industries like real estate, banking, hospitality to name a few,” he added.

However, immigration law firm Murthy Law Firm said in a statement earlier this week that legislative barriers would prevent Trump from eliminating the H-1B visa extensions.

“While it is troubling that the Administration continues to push for ways to make life more difficult for foreign nationals working in the United States, this nation’s separation of powers helps to check the President’s power to do so. It should also be noted that this supposed attempt to reinterpret AC21 comes from an unconfirmed media report. As of yet, no official statement has been made by the USCIS on this topic, and no formal action has been taken,” the statement said.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services is the agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States.
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