In a shot in the arm for the Narendra Modi government ahead of his US visit, the US Department of Labour has cleared Indian IT giant Infosys of visa violation charges. The non-immigrant visas of H-1B and L-1 are the most sought after visas in the US by foreign workers to work in high skill technology sectors and Indians get the maximum number of these visas in the US. However, it has been a major point of contention between India and the US, with India pushing the US to liberalise the visa regime in this category.
India believes the current ceiling imposed on the total number of visas issued to Indians at the moment is very less and needs more visas to be issued to cater to its high skilled workers. The US, on the other hand, has to cater to its domestic constituency which contends that an increase in these non-immigrant visas in high skilled technology areas deprives local citizens of jobs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to take up this contentious issue with President Barack Obama during his meeting on September 28 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Mr Modi will also visit Silicon Valley, the hub of Indian-American tech entrepreneurs and software professionals where the visa issue will figure high in interactions.
Corporate India has been voicing concerns on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, which was a major immigration reform in the US and the existing issues regarding the H-1B and L-1 visas. In recent years, India Inc, and especially its IT and ITES sectors, has been vocal about the problems facing Indian firms and their employees in getting a work permit to service clients on-site. So what provisions in the bill have alarmed Indian companies? One of the major clauses in the bill that has India concerned is the ban on outplacement of H-1B visa-holders if they form more than 15 percent of a firm’s U.S. workforce. Given that Indian firms send a sizable number of their employees to serve at client locations in the US, this could disrupt the growth plans of these companies. This could lead to Indian firms cutting down on dispatching employees, and impact overall productivity.
Some of Indian IT companies such as Infosys and TCS had been accused of misusing the non-immigrant visas after it was alleged by American workers that their jobs were wrongfully outsourced to foreign workers.
Indian companies have denied the allegation and the latest report from the US Department of Labour clearing Infosys of any wrongdoing vindicates Infosys’s stand. With Infosys cleared of charges of misusing the visa, the ground has been laid for India to make a strong case for an increase in demand of these visas. The total number of H-1B visas that can be issued by the US is 85,000 of which India gets the bulk. There were 2,33,000 visa applications for the fiscal year 2016, which is a record, according to the US government.
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