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H-1B visa curbs may boomerang on US companies: Nasscom

Higher number of work permits issued to Indian nationals working for American firms.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 21, 2019, 07.04 AM IST
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Acknowledging that Indian nationals accounted for majority of all approved H-1B visas in FY2017, Nasscom said this is a "testimony" to their skill-set.
BENGALURU: Likely restrictions on H-1B visas may hurt US technology companies more than Indian IT services providers, as a higher number of work permits have been issued to Indian nationals working for American firms.

Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa programme, with two-thirds of the work permits going to them, according to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which processes these applications.

“This is a testimony to their skillset. Only a small share of these Indian nationals is employed by Indian companies. The vast majority of them are sponsored by global and US multinationals,” said software lobby group Nasscom in a statement on Thursday.

Amazon secured more work permits than the top six Indian IT services firms combined last year.

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No Official Word: MEA
“If US policy makes it more difficult to hire advanced tech workers, it will only weaken the US companies that depend on them to help fill their skills gaps, put jobs at risk, creating pressure to send technology services abroad,” Nasscom said.

The US told India that it was considering capping H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally, news agency Reuters reported on Thursday quoting unnamed sources.

Spokespersons at the ministry of external affairs and the commerce ministry, however, said the US had not talked about capping of work permits for Indians.

“There is no US official who has said this,” the MEA spokesperson said. “We have not heard anything officially. We remain engaged with US officials and (US) Congress over this.”

The Reserve Bank of India has said global payment firms such as Mastercard and Visa should store data locally. The country has also unveiled draft data protection and ecommerce policies, which call for critical personal data of users and customer data of ecommerce firms to be stored locally.

After analysing data from the USCIS, US-based think tank, Centre for Immigration Studies (CIS), had said in March that six Indian companies — Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant and the US arms of Tech Mahindra and HCL Technologies — got only 16%, or 2,145 H-1B work permits in 2018, less than the 2,399 visas that Amazon secured.

These firms accounted for nearly two-thirds of the visa extension rejections among the top 30 companies in 2018, CIS said. The study counted Cognizant, based in the US, as an Indian entity as it follows the Indian IT services provider model — one that has a larger base of employees offshore in the country.

The Trump administration has increased scrutiny of visa applications from Indian companies in the last few years.

“A cap on the number of Indian professionals who can apply for, and receive, H-1B visas will impact not just Indian IT firms but also all the firms in the US,” said Vivek Tandon, CEO of EB5 BRICS.

In 2018, Indian IT firms received a large number of continuing approvals, or extensions that are not subject to the annual cap, but the list of employers receiving maximum initial approvals (for new H-1B employees) was dominated by US firms, he said.

If the United States does impose country-specific caps, Indian companies could be severely impacted, said Ganesh Natarajan, the former CEO of Zensar Technologies.
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