Context

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded in making President Donald Trump recognize the contributions of Indian skilled professionals to the American economy.

The discussion on H-1B

  • Modi had an extensive discussion with President Trump on the spirit behind the visa.
  • President Trump applauded the entrepreneurship and innovation of Indians and Indian-Americans that have directly benefited both the nations.
  • India put front the point that if the United States took any decision adversely impacting Indian professionals, such a move would eventually hurt its own interests.
  • The Indian government gave in a written reply to remain closely engaged with the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Administration on issues relations to mobility of Indian skilled professionals, through the H-1B visa programme.
  • In the current U.S. Congress, six Bills relating to H-1B and L-1 visa programmes have been introduced by individual congressmen and senators.

What is H-1B Visa?

  • The H-1B is a temporary (non-immigrant) visa category that allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.
  • Jobs in fields such as mathematics, engineering, and technology often qualify.
  • Typically, the initial duration of an H-1B visa classification is three years, which may be extended for a maximum of six years.
  • Before the employer can file a petition with USCIS, the employer need to take steps to ensure that hiring the foreign worker will not harm U.S. workers.
  • First, employers must attest, on a labor condition application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (DOL), that employment of the H-1B worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S.workers.
  • Employers must also provide existing workers with notice of their intention to hire an H-1B worker.
  • The category was created in 1990, Congress has limited the number of H-1Bs made available each year.
  • The current annual statutory cap is 65,000 visas, with 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. institution of higher learning.
  • In recent years, the limit has been reached only a few days after the petition submission period began.

New Rules

  • The new rules for the visas could raise labour costs for both technology companies and businesses using outsourcing services in the US.
  • These extra costs are estimated to be about USD 2.6 billion a year.
  • The assumption is that the visa holders will be paid USD 100,000 in annual wages, around the average at major companies based on online job postings, while the number of visas issued remains the same.
  • From next year, the visas could go to applicants with the highest wages and skills, and the number of H-1B visas issued may also be reduced since the focus is to hire Americans.
  • The large supply of technologists from India, eager to work in the US, has kept technology wages in the US from surging too high, especially when demand rises sharply as in the current social media boom and during the internet bubble of the late 1990s.

Benefits to Indians

  • Starting in 2018, H-1B visas are issued to those with the maximum wages and skills, Indian professionals could benefit.
  • Indians graduating with advanced degrees in the US and highly skilled professionals in India applying for H-1B jobs should then be able to find jobs with higher wages and better working condition.
  • The current system for H-1B visa workers does not put the interests of India first, and flourishing abuses to the system leave the American worker standing on the sidelines and often underemployed.
  • Some 80,000 workers will be getting their visas this fall, and thousands more will get their visas renewed, likely for another three years.
  • Some 65% of those visas have gone to Indian nationals brought in by the major Indian IT outsourcing firms Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra and Tata Consultancy Services.
  • As for Trump and the H-1B issue, the India front has been won. At the very least, it is under control. The Indian firms will get less. The American firms will get more.
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