In what could be another blow to Indian IT firms, two senators have introduced a legislation seeking to cut the number of H-1B work visas by 15,000. It will also insist that such visas be given to highest wage earners first.

Currently, every year a maximum 85,000 H-1B visas can be issued, including 20,000 for those who completed higher education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The legislation, introduced by senators Bill Nelson and Jeff Sessions, would require the Department of Homeland Security to prioritise the allocation of these remaining 70,000 H-1B visas to foreign workers based on their salary.

“By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified US workers,” Nelson said.

Indian IT companies said the legislation will be counterproductive for the growth of the US technology industry. Industry body Nasscom said, “The Bill does nothing to address the root cause of the problem, that is, science, technology, engineering and math skills shortage in America, where H-1Bs and L-1 non-immigrants fill the skills gaps in the US economy and positively impact the ability of US-based companies to access global talent.”

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields.