Moumita Bakshi Chatterjee

New Delhi, March 14

A turnaround in business sentiment and improved demand are expected to drive Indian IT firms to apply for higher number of H-1B visas this year compared to 2009, when global uncertainty had lowered the appetite for the coveted visas.

However, demand this year is unlikely to claw its way back to previous highs – in the years preceding the advent of financial crisis, the H-1B limit would get exhausted within days of the opening date.

A clearer picture is likely to emerge in the coming days as the US starts accepting H-1B applications from April 1.

Industry watchers anticipate higher demand and faster exhaustion of the 65,000 H-1B visa quota. In 2009, the cap was reached only in December, eight months after the US opened its H-1B filing counters.

More applications

“This year, the situation is better and the business is up. So, visas will be used up earlier, compared to last year. Indian companies will apply more than last year. From an industry standpoint, I expect numbers to be larger than last year, and go faster,” said Mr T.V. Mohandas Pai, Member of Board and Director, HR, Education, Research and Administration, Infosys Technologies.

The Zensar Vice-Chairman and CEO, Mr Ganesh Natarajan, expects demand for tech visas to be three times more than last year. “The quota is likely to be met by June-July, despite some perceived negative signs from the US Government or local companies,” Mr Natarajan said.

Lawyers filing H-1B visa applications on behalf of their clients are echoing the same view. “Applicants are more proactive and have started the paperwork earlier,” Ms Poorvi Chothani of the Mumbai-based law firm LawQuest said.

Uncertainty

For most parts of 2009, uncertain business outlook kept H-1B filings on a weak footing. The demand spiked only towards the end of the year, tracking signs of recovery in the West.

The Nasscom President, Mr Som Mittal, however, feels that there will not be any significant uptick in tech visa demand.

“The filings by Indian industry have come down over the years. Against 12,500 visas in 2007-2008, Indian companies got only 5,200 visas in 2008-2009. The 2009-10 numbers are not very high. Even if demand for the visa is more in 2010, how much higher can it be?” Mr Mittal said.

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US downturn dents demand for H-1B visas
Don’t cry for H-1B, India

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 15, 2010)
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