Jaitley raises concerns on H-1B with US Commerce Secretary

K R Srivats New Delhi | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on April 21, 2017

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley


Outlines contributions made by Indian professionals to American economy

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his meeting with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Friday, raised concerns about the recent executive order by US President Donald Trump which indicated a possible tightening of the H-1B visa regime for short-term workers.

“The Finance Minister outlined the significant contributions made by skilled Indian professionals to the US economy and expressed hope that the US administration will take this aspect into consideration while taking any decision,” said an official release.

New Delhi is concerned about the ‘Buy American Hire American’ executive order signed by Trump on Tuesday which lays down that H-1B visas should be used only to get highly qualified foreign workers and not entry-level employees who take away American jobs. The US government could come up with new rules related to issuing of H-1B visas based on the high-qualification criteria.

Ross reportedly told the FM that the Trump administration’s objective is to have a merit-based immigration policy that gives preference to highly skilled professionals.

Jaitley is in Washington DC to attend the annual Spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

He is scheduled to hold a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from the US, Australia, France, Indonesia and Sweden. He is also likely to meet finance ministers from neighbouring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

While India is worried about the implementation of the executive order and looking at the possibility of it leading to a discrimination against Indian IT professionals, of greater significance are the legislative changes in the H-1B regime proposed in a number of Bills floated in the US Congress.

Legislative changes

The Bills, which propose a number of measures, including doubling the minimum wage for such visas to $1,30,000 from the present $ 60,000, and 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, will be put to vote in the US Congress.

The Indian government and industry, led by IT body Nasscom, have been lobbying hard in the US to build an opinion against the Bills. Jaitley is expected to interact with think-tanks and eminent Indian-Americans during his visit, to discuss the matter.

Indian IT companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro generate an estimated $65 billion worth of business in the US, and tightening the leash on them could hurt large American companies such as GE, Boeing and Cisco that do considerable business with India.

Jaitley said the two countries should be able to move towards achieving the goal of $500 billion per annum in bilateral trade in the next few years.

Published on April 21, 2017
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