When India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Barack Obama in the White House on September 30, he is expected to take up the demands of India’s IT industry to ease visa norms for Indian IT professionals.
Taking into account the Indian IT industry’s concerns, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj underlined that the IT issue will figure prominently in India’s agenda in the forthcoming summit. “I raised this issue with Secretary Kerry and we’ve raised this issue with President Obama also. This is an issue which tops our agenda,” Swaraj told journalists in New Delhi on September 8.
Against this backdrop, the Indian IT sector is pinning hopes on the talks in Washington later this month. IT industry leaders expect the visit to provide an opportunity for the two countries to take up discussion on key issues that constrain the growth of the mutually beneficial IT sector.
In April 2013, Indian IT companies — TCS, Infosys and Wipro — were accused of abusing the H-1B visa system. Under the H-1B visa programme — which is a temporary work visa — foreign-born workers can be employed for up to three years by a sponsor company and may apply to stay longer. However, IT firms which hire specialised workers from India under the programme will not be able to do so if the US lawmakers pass the controversial US Immigration Bill in its current form.
Indeed, H-1B visa rejections for employees of Indian IT majors have already increased since debate over the issue started in the US senate. The immigration bill is likely to be amended after the mid-term Senate elections.
“During (US Secretary of State) John Kerry’s visit, we had brought the visa issue to the attention of the government and it was taken up quite strongly…Mr Kerry also acknowledged that they recognise the concerns that India has,” said R Chandrashekhar, president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).
The new administration acknowledges the importance of the H-1B visa for the IT professionals looking to work in the US.
Sanjoy Sen, senior director, Deloitte, believes that the new government has given the IT sector reasons to be optimistic. The proposed national intellectual property rights (IPR) policy, increased collaboration between academic institutions and research bodies to bridge the skill gap between IT workers in both countries, and initiatives like the Digital India programme have set the stage for Indian and American technology companies to work together.
The US administration is all too aware of India’s concerns on this issue. The immigration bill is a critical priority for President Obama, said US Secretary of State John Kerry after holding the fifth India-US strategic dialogue with Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on July 31;
“And we are very aware of the need to make sure that there are more people able to travel, more people able to become part of the commerce…” he said.
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