Wednesday, 01 February 2017 11:33

Indian outsourcing firms nervous about US visa changes Featured

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Indian outsourcing companies are in a state of nervous tension as they wait to see what changes will be made to the US H-1B visa system, which they use to send workers on assignment to the US.

Companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro and Satyam, among others, undertake a fair number of projects for American companies. Some work is often done in India, but in many cases Indians are sent to the US to carry out the work.

The Hindustan Times reported that estimates showed that 86% of H-1B visas for computer-related jobs were issued to Indians. The US issues a total of 85,000 H-1B visas every year.

California Democrat Zoe Lofgren moved the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 on 24 January, a bill that aims to overhaul the H-1B visa system that allows American companies and others based in the US to hire highly-skilled foreign workers.

Though Lofgren's bill is not expected to make headway as Republicans are in control of both houses, an alternative bill has been drafted by Republican Darrell Issa.

A draft of Lofgren's bill begins: "Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the US national interest.

"Visa programmes for foreign workers… should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritises the protection of American workers – our forgotten working people – and the jobs they hold."

US President Donald Trump caused turmoil over the last week after he issued an executive order banning nationals of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the US.

Trump and others in his administration have repeatedly said that H-1B visas are being used by companies in the US to cut costs, by outsourcing work to outfits that bring in workers from abroad, mostly from India.

The Hindustan Times said the concerns of the outsourcing sector had been conveyed to the US administration.

Prior to his inauguration, Trump held a summit with leaders of major technology companies where the idea of doing away with the lottery system for granting H-1B visas was discussed. There was also a proposal to make the application fee for an H-1B visa much higher.

The Indian tech industry is estimated to earn about US$65 billion a year from business with US companies.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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