With the United States tightening H-1B visa norms last week, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised his country’s concerns with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during their first meeting on Sunday.
This was the second time Jaitley had raised the issue with a member of the US administration during his visit to the US to attend the annual Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He had already raised it with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier, according to PTI.
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialized occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Indian technology companies depend on it to hire thousands of employees each year for their US operations. The US market accounts for about 60% of the revenue of the Indian IT industry, which is worth some US$150 billion.
US President Donald Trump on April 18 signed an executive order to tighten the rules of the H-1B program to stop its “abuse”. The order, referred to as ‘Buy American, Hire American’ aligns with Trump’s ‘America First’ campaign promises.
At a White House briefing last week, an official in the Trump administration accused top Indian IT firms TCS and Infosys of unfairly cornering the lion’s share of H-1B visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system. The Trump administration now wants to replace that system with a more merit-based immigration policy.
Though the Trump administration’s move has evoked concern in India, some experts see it as a blessing in disguise. The former Chief Financial Officer of Infosys T.V. Mohandas Pai has said the move would be advantageous to Indian IT firms as it would mean they would shift more work offshore.
The present business model of Indian IT companies in the US — an offshore-onsite work ratio of 70:30 – would now go up to 90:10 and increase companies’ competitiveness, he said in a statement.
He added that he felt the new visa regulations would lead to an artificial scarcity of skilled professionals in America. This would allow Indian companies to bill more for work because there are not enough Americans to fill all positions, he said.