US audit body favours H-1B visa reforms

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 21, 2011

Seeking more transparency in the H-1B hiring process, US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has suggested creation of centralised Web site – accessible to the public – where companies are required to post notices of their intent to hire H-1B workers.

If implemented, the recommendation made by GAO and supported by the US Department of Justice could enable US workers to determine if they have been replaced by H-1B visa holders, and also identify employers who discriminate against US workers. The GAO is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the US Congress.

This recommendation and others form a part of a 118-page report by the GAO. It comes at a time when H-1B hiring continues to be a ticklish issue in the US political circles, and unemployment rates remain high. Last year, the US passed the Border Security Bill which hiked the H-1B and L-1 visa fee (by about $ 2,000) for Indian tech companies and later went on to extend the duration of the hike by another year till 2015.

The untimely visa fee hike had irked the Indian IT industry, which derives nearly 62 per cent of its software export revenue from that market.

More Indian workers

Incidentally, GAO has noted that since the year 2000 most workers approved under the H-1B program were born in China or India and for technology positions. GAO has said that between 2000 and 2009, about 64 per cent of approved H-1B workers were born in four countries - India, China, Canada, and the Philippines - with the largest group from India (almost 47 per cent).

“Using publicly available data on H-1B hiring employers we learnt that at least 10 of the top 85 H-1B hiring employers in fiscal 2009 participate in staffing arrangements, of which at least six have headquarters or operations located in India. Together, in fiscal 2009, these 10 employers garnered nearly 11,456 approvals, or about 6 per cent of all H-1B approvals,” it said.

When contacted, the Nasscom President, Mr Som Mittal, declined to comment on the report saying he is yet to see it.

Published on January 21, 2011

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