US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 13, 2020. Photo: AFP

The Trump administration has decided to impose visa curbs that could affect Indian technology professionals visiting the US to do work, Press Trust of India reports.

The State Department has proposed not issuing temporary business visas for H-1B specialty occupations.

This mov, which move comes less than two weeks before the US presidential election, is likely to affect several Indian companies that send their technology professionals to the US on B-1 visas for short stays to complete jobs.

The State Department claims the move will help reduce the impact of foreign workers on the US workforce. It said that because B-1 visas do not require any procedural requirements to protect US workers, as is the case with H-1B visas, it is often misused. In addition, the fees for the B-1 visas are far less than those for H-1B visas.

The notification said employers were undermining US immigration law and policies by rotating their employees between the US and their home country to get the job done at a significantly lower cost. While in the case of H-1B visas the employers have to pay the prevailing wage in the area, that is not required for B-1 visas.

It also cited a case involving Infosys in 2019. The attorney general of California announced a US$800,000 settlement against Infosys to resolve allegations that approximately 500 of its employees had worked on Infosys-sponsored B-1 visas rather than H-1B visas.

The Trump administration has consistently taken a tough stand against employment-based immigration visas. On June 22, the president issued a proclamation barring the entry of H-1B, L-1 and J1 visa holders till the end of the year. It cited surging unemployment in the US caused by the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the move.

Indians have been the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B program, receiving about 70% of the 85,000 visas issued annually, and they are mostly employed by information technology and financial services firms. When Indian professionals go to the US to work at a client site, they get H1-B visas, but if they go to work at the company’s own office in the US they are issued L-1 visas.

However, US companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Walmart filed a suit opposing the proclamation and it was subsequently suspended by a US district court. In recent years, more visas have been issued to American technology firms such as Google, Apple and Microsoft than to Indian IT services providers.