From the Viewsroom

New challenges for Indian techies

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on November 07, 2019 Published on November 07, 2019

Staffing concerns rise as US tightens issue of H-1B visas

Has the software services industry moved quickly enough to avoid getting hurt by the Trump administration’s tightening up on H-1B visas? The industry has been preparing for this visa squeeze for several years, especially since Donald Trump amped up his anti-immigrant talk. But now it’s crunch time. Visa rejection rates for Indian software services companies have quadrupled since 2015 from about 6 per cent to around 24 per cent, according to a study by a think-tank, the National Foundation for American Policy.

By comparison, American companies like Amazon and Google which are also facing slightly more rejections, are still much better off. Their rejection rates have climbed from 1 per cent to anywhere between 3 per cent and 5 per cent. For Indian companies this means forward planning is suddenly much tougher. If, for instance, they want to send 100 staffers for a project, they face the prospect of only around 75 getting visas, leading to obvious difficulties. That’s not all. Even staffers already in the US, who in earlier years could renew their visas easily, now face the prospect of up to 12 per cent of what are called ‘continuing employment’ visas being refused. That could mean huge upheavals, especially if they’ve moved there with their families.

The Indian software service giants have been hiring more in the US and even shifting some work to Canada. But the entire software services model is built on the fact that it’s cheaper to hire software programmers in India, so there’s a limit to how much onsite or near site hiring can be done without affecting costs. All this means uncertainty for software services companies and their employees, most of whom are eager to get coveted foreign postings.

At this rate, the long-term competitiveness of Indian companies could get affected. But the fact remains that US universities don’t produce anywhere near enough graduates to feed their hi-tech industry’s huge demand for personnel. Indian software engineers can fill the gap — at least for now.

Published on November 07, 2019
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