The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) countered the United States’ claim that Indian IT firms bag the highest number of H-1B Visas by exploiting the lottery system that allots these work permits. Nasscom came out in defence of its members Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys had won only 7,504 – 8.8% of the approved H-1B visas in 2014-2015, PTI reported.
On April 17, an official of the US government had said, “Top Indian IT firms TCS , Infosys and Cognizant “unfairly” cornering the lion’s share of the H1B work visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system, if you will, and then they get the lion’s share of visas”. Indian technology firms use H1B visas to send their employees to work at customer sites in the US, which is the largest market for the over $110 billion Indian IT export industry. Over the past few weeks, there is a growing sentiment of protectionism across various markets, including the US, that are seeking to safeguard jobs for locals and raise the bar for foreign workers.
“Nasscom would like to clarify on the statements made by the White House on Indian companies getting the lion’s share of H1B visas and highlight that in 2014-15, only six of the top 20 H1B recipients were Indian companies,” it said in a statement. “All Indian IT companies cumulatively account for less than 20% of the total approved H-1B visas, though Indian nationals get about 71% of the H-1B visas.” This indicated the high skill levels of Indian-origin professionals, the association added.
It maintained the US faced a shortage of skilled computer science engineers, particularly in segments such as cloud, big data and mobile computing. The US department of labour estimates 2.4 million unfilled STEM (science, technology, engineering mathematics) jobs by 2018, with over half these vacancies in IT-related positions.The annual number of Indian IT specialists working on temporary visas for Indian IT service companies is about 0.009% of the 158-million-member US workforce.
Also, Nasscom said, Indian IT companies paid higher salaries for workers sent on projects than local wages in the US. Nasscom said the average pay for H-1B visa holders was a little over $82,000, apart from a fixed cost of about $15,000 incurred for each visa issued. “This is over 35 per cent higher than the minimum prescribed exempt wage of $60,000,” it contended.
Earlier Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had raised the matter of the tightening H-1B visa policy with his American counterpart, Steven Mnuchin. Meanwhile, the US on Monday said it greatly valued investments by Indian companies and wanted to see bilateral business ties remain strong. “We want to see US-India business-to-business ties remain strong,” acting spokesperson of the State Department, Mark Toner, said.
TCS and Infosys together received 7,504 approved H1B visas in 2014-15, which is only 8.8% of the total approved H1B visas, it added. While the two software exporters have not issued a formal statement on the issue, they have stated that they ensure compliance with norms in the markets that they operate in.
Both companies TCS and Infosys, are members of Nasscom, a trade association of Indian IT firms. Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel also brought up the matter of protectionism while giving a lecture in New York City on Monday. “Where would Apple, IBM be if not for talent from across the globe?” he said, according to PTI. “I don’t think we have heard the last word on the US policy talks about this because there is a push back internationally that the world has benefited from an open trading system.”
On April 19, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order introducing changes to the H-1B temporary visa scheme. “Indian IT Industry is a net creator of jobs in the US and supports nearly half a million jobs directly and indirectly,” Nasscom said.
Every year, the US grants 65,000 H1B visas while another 20,000 are set aside for those with US advanced degrees. In the US, the Trump administration wants to replace the current lottery system with a more merit-based immigration policy. Any change in visa norms can affect the movement of labour as well as spike operational costs for IT players.
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