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After H-1B visa curbs, two more US Bills may stymie Indian tech

This comes even as buzz about US President Donald Trump signing an executive order that reforms the H-1B programme is still alive.
This comes even as buzz about US President Donald Trump signing an executive order that reforms the H-1B programme is still alive.
NEW DELHI: The Indian IT industry has more than just the H-1B visa Bill to worry about. Two more legislations have been introduced in the United States Congress over the last two weeks that can hit the domestic tech sector’s prospects.

While the H-1B visa Bill seeks to more than double the minimum wage for an H-1B visa holder to $130,000, the ‘End Outsourcing Act’ asks for a ban on outsourcing by states. Another is a 2007 Bill that has been reintroduced by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin — long time proponents of work visa reform. This Bill too seeks revamp of the H-1B visa programme.

This comes even as buzz about US President Donald Trump signing an executive order that reforms the H-1B programme is still alive.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley and Assistant Democratic Leader Durbin announced on the former’s website that they will introduce the legislation to "prioritise American workers and restore fairness" in visa programmes.

"Congress created these programmes to complement America’s high-skilled workforce, not replace it," Grassley said. He added that some companies are trying to exploit the programmes by cutting American workers for cheaper labour.

The Bill, introduced on January 20, aims to give preference for talented foreign students educated in the US for H-1B visas.

Meanwhile, three Senate democrats — Joe Donnelly along with Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand — on January 30 introduced the ‘End Outsourcing Act’. The legislation seeks that companies that outsource jobs should not be subsidised by US taxpayers and also be disallowed to do business with the US government.

"We should encourage businesses to invest here and make sure taxpayer funded contracts are awarded to companies that employ American workers," Brown said in a statement. "We need programmes dedicated to putting American workers first. When skilled foreign workers are needed to meet the demands of our labour market, we must also ensure that visa applicants who honed their skills at American colleges and universities are a priority over the importation of more foreign workers."

While on Monday when Democrat Zoe Lofgren — who represents a Congressional district in California that includes Silicon Valley — introduced ‘The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017’, which proposes a skill and wagebased system for allocation of H-1B visas and doubling the H-1B wage to $130,000, stocks of major Indian software exporters such as Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services nose-dived, with five IT stocks losing about .`33,000 crore in market value.

Meanwhile, the ministry of external affairs has downplayed the impact. Asserting that no executive order has been passed by the Trump Administration for overhauling of H-1B visas so far, a government spokesperson said the country will not "prejudge" the outcome of the three private Bills raised in this regard when they go through the full Congressional process.

"No executive order has been signed so far... Three private Bills have been introduced in the US House of Representatives. Such Bills have been introduced in the past also and such Bills have to go through the full Congressional process," MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

He also said India remains in dialogue with the Trump Administration as well as US Congress at the senior levels over the issue. "They are fully aware of our position in this particular matter i.e., Indian software exports and Indian software technical professionals add to the competitiveness of the US industry," Swarup said.

Adelegation from the tech industry body Nasscom is leaving for the US in the last week of February to discuss the issue with US policy makers.

Shivendra Singh of Nasscom said such Bills have to go through many levels of scrutiny before they become law. "We would look forward to laws which bring about changes that are applicable to all companies and not alter level playing field. We should aim for global unhindered equal trade relations," he said.
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