Indian IT professionals circumspect as US tightens visa norms

Curbing visa ‘misuse’ and protecting Americans’ jobs

Business & Politics

January 13, 2017

/ By / New Delhi



The reforms in immigration laws in the US are looking at protecting jobs for Americans by increasing the salary of H-1B visa holders and cessation of an exemption of them having a master’s degree.

Indian IT professionals are to face a major setback ahead of the US president-elect, Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ promise of taking strict steps that will reduce the misuse of H-1B and L1 visas. These types of visas are popularly used by the Indian IT professionals who are active in the United States and American companies benefit from it by recruiting cheaper yet skilled Indian workers. Any legal step taken to curb its benefits will directly affect India’s IT sector as well.

Till date, the visa exempted IT professionals from having a master’s degree and offered them a salary of USD 60,000 per annum, thus, giving them benefits that isn’t found back at home, while American companies garnered benefits themselves by having cheap yet skilled workforce. However, this has pulled Americans off various jobs and thus, the new reforms are looking at protecting and growing American jobs.

“It’s simply wrong to think that we’re in a totally open world and that any American with a job can be replaced if somebody in the world is willing to take a job for a lesser pay,” Senator Jeff Sessions told members of Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing for the position of US Attorney General.

Reducing unemployment and solving the problem of immigrants in the United States is on top of the agendas for Trump and team, but skilled-foreign workers may end up paying a heavy price for it.

Describing Sessions as a vocal champion for American workers, Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that many American workers are being laid off and replaced by cheaper foreign labour imported through some of the US visa programmes.

Sessions and Grassley have previously worked together to bring legislations on H-1B visas that had badly hit Indian IT companies.

The US starts accepting the visa application under H-1B typically from April 1 every year and issues around 65,000 visas to highly skilled professionals. Exemption of possessing a master’s degree to qualify for a H-1B visa will reduce the talent pool qualifying for such visas. It will also increase employment costs for hiring employees with higher qualification and would increase the cost of operations and pressurise margins.

The amendments will also prohibit companies from hiring H-1B visa holders if they hire more than 50 people more than 50 pc of their employees are H-1B or L-1 visa holders.

It has also been reported that many US workers find H-1B beneficiaries constitute de facto nationality based discrimination against American workers and the new norms are thus being welcomed by them.

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