US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris onstage after delivering remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020. Photo: AFP/Jim Watson

The National Association of Software and Service Companies, an industry body for Indian software companies, has welcomed Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election and is hopeful of closer business ties between the two countries, the Press Trust of India reported.

The US is the biggest market for the Indian IT sector and the association said it looks forward to working with the new administration.

“NASSCOM congratulates US #PresidentElect @JoeBiden on his win. We look forward to working with him and his administration in pivoting technology, skills and digital transformation for the United States,” it said in a tweet.

The industry body said the key challenge that the software sector faces is the lack of required science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent in the US. While there is a high degree of overall unemployment on the one hand, there are more than half a million job vacancies in computer occupation on the other.

“Nasscom looks forward to working together with the new US Administration, to find solutions to the skills gap, and enable America to be more competitive, to grow and create more jobs,” it added.

The industry body has projected revenue growth of 7.7% at US$191 billion for the IT sector in the ongoing fiscal year. The software industry has added a net 200,000 jobs, taking the overall workforce to 4.36 million.

H1B visas

Indian technology firms will be closely and watch the Biden administration’s approach and policies related to short-term work visas that are used by a large number of Indian technology professionals. They either go on H1-B or L-1 visas.

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.

In June, during the Covid-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump banned entry into the US of workers in several key non-immigrant visa categories, including H-1B, until the end of the year, arguing that they eat into American jobs. Those affected include the family members of the holders of H-1B, L-1, and certain categories of J1, 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. 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.

Biden’s campaign document states that his party will support expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by country, which create unacceptably long backlogs. Employment-based visas, also known as green cards, allow migrants to gain lawful permanent residence in the US in order to engage in skilled work.

Due to the limits based on country, people from India and China are at a disadvantage as the number of applicants for green cards is much higher than say Ghana or Indonesia. Hence they have to wait for long periods, while those from countries with few applicants get it almost immediately.

Kamala factor

In addition, the fact that new Vice-President Kamala Harris has Indian links – her mother hails from Tamil Nadu state – has evoked a lot of interest in corporate India.

Nasscom President Debjani Ghosh lauded Harris for her message: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last – because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities”.

Ghosh said: “This … should be a solemn promise we all make.” The information technology sector globally has been working on the increasing participation of women in the workforce as well as expanding the diversity of teams.

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