H-1B visa: India to give ‘measured response’

Amiti Sen Surabhi New Delhi | Updated on January 27, 2018


Executive orders can’t bring about big changes; legislative changes would take time

India will refrain from a knee-jerk reaction to the proposed tightening of H-1B visa regime for skilled workers by the Donald Trump government in the US as drastic changes in the regime such as hiking the minimum salary requirement is possible only through Congressional approvals.

“What is causing all the furore at the moment is a draft executive order on H-1B visas floated by the Trump government. What we must not lose focus of is the fact that an executive order can only make small changes such as increasing scrutiny and other implementation related matters. The bigger changes such as raising the minimum wages limit for H-1B visas can be brought about through Congressional approval which could take months,” a Commerce Ministry official told BusinessLine.

IT industry shaken

The Indian IT industry operating in the US, including companies such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro, is shaken by the Trump regime’s hardened stance on the H-1B visa regime that could render them uncompetitive in the US market.

What is of most concern are two legislative bills — one which proposes doubling the minimum wage rate for such visas to $1,30,000 from the present $60,000 and the other which proposes disallowing companies with more than 50 employees, of which at least half are H-1B or L-1 holders, from hiring additional H-1B employees.

While the Indian government has registered its concern with the US government on the changes being considered in the visa regime through the Indian Embassy, the Commerce Ministry will wait for more clarity and also all necessary appointments to take place in the US before it fights on specifics.

“The appointment of the US Commerce Secretary has not been ratified by the Senate. In the US, both the first and second in command in Ministries, including Commerce, are political appointments. The appointments haven’t happened till now. We have to wait for the relevant people to be in position before reasoning and negotiating with them,” the official said.

Officials in the Finance Ministry also agree that India needs to first wait and watch what is happening before deciding on its course of action.

“There are no travel restrictions on India. On the visa issue, as of now, it is still early days. We have to see what happens,” said a senior official, adding that apart from Indian workers, even US companies will be impacted.

“Such restrictions on the work visa scheme could also have an impact on the US economy and companies,” he noted, adding that it has to be seen whether there is adequate skilled domestic manpower there and whether the companies can afford the higher wages.

Indian IT companies generate an estimated $65 billion worth of business in the US and tightening the leash on them could hurt large US companies such as GE, Boeing, and Cisco who do a lot of business with India.

(With inputs from Richa Mishra)

Published on February 05, 2017

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