Indian applications for the coveted H-1B work permit visas could fall for the second year in a row amid increased US government scrutiny and changing business models.

“We expect applications to fall further this year, given the changing business models of Indian IT companies, which now use more of cloud computing and other technologies that reduce their dependency on H-1B visas,” Shivendra Singh, Vice-President at Nasscom’s Global Trade Development Council, told BusinessLine .

Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of these visas.

Singh acknowledged that there had been heightened US government scrutiny targeting Indian companies applying for H-1B visas. “Indian IT companies welcome the scrutiny, but we should not be targeted, and rules should be the same for all applications, irrespective of whether it is from an Indian company or an American company,” Singh added.

The first major decline happened last year: the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received only 1.99 lakh H-1B applications in fiscal 2018, against 2.36 lakh in fiscal 2017.

Experts say the application process has been taking longer than before, as the US government has begun scrutinising each application, delaying work for IT companies who require manpower for urgent projects.

The Trump administration has clamped down on H-1B visa applications as part of several measures to scale back immigration. Last week, the USCIS warned foreign workers that multiple H-1B applications would lead to a rejection of the petitions.

“We will deny or revoke the approval of all H-1B cap-subject petitions filed for one beneficiary by ‘related entities’ unless there is a legitimate business need,” USCIS said.

“It was common for people to apply through their sponsor company as well as a third party to improve their visa chances. That will now decrease given the clampdown on duplicate applications,” said Kris Lakshminath, founder CMD, The Head Hunters India.

Under Congressional mandate, the USCIS can issue 65,000 H-1B visas every year and another 20,000 to those who completed their higher education at a US university.