H1B visa reform bill introduced in USA, min pay doubled to USD130,000

The H-1B visa is highly coveted in the technology industry and the USA usually receives more H-1B applications than the cap of 85,000; for example, 236,000 applications were sent for the H-1B visas process in 2016, and the visas were granted on the basis of a lottery. This step will be a set back for many Indian IT firms primarily- Infosys, TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) and Wipro. Mphasis, NIIT, Geometric, Mindtree and KPIT Technologies as well as stocks of mid-cap IT companies also dropped to nearly 4%.

Two California members of Congress, Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), have introduced separate legislation aimed at raising the salaries of H-1B visa holders from the current minimum of $60,000, aiming to make it harder for foreign workers to undercut Americans.

File picture of Indian tech workers.

Speaking at an event, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian said, "My concern is that Donald trump in last debate said, 'H-1B, whatever it is, I use it but I don't like it".

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Another Bill proposed by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin also seeks a reform of the H-1B visa programme. Those outsourcing firms, which are defined as "H-1B dependent" companies, need only to pay $60,000 annually to their workers in order to be exempt from various requirements, including demonstrating that they aren't displacing American workers.

Exports contribute majority of the Indian IT sector which contributes 9.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and one of the largest private sector employer at 3.7 million people. In many cases, the companies are hiring for highly technical positions in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Under the H-1B program, the US grants 65,000 visas to skilled workers every year - and another 20,000 to foreigners who graduated from American universities.

Trump's pledges to reform US immigration laws and protect American workers are widely viewed in India as a threat to the visa program known as H-1B, which brings up to 85,000 foreign professionals to the United States annually, for three-year stays. "The viability of the offshoring model of Indian software firms would be at risk", she said.

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It is noteworthy, the visa sponsors, who are employers, are sorted by the number of Labor Condition Application (LCA) submitted. The average salary of those job offers was $81,705.

"From the Indian companies' perspective, it could mean that the wage limit will have to be doubled, but from a U.S. company's point of view, it could mean that shortage of talent could be there". She cites World Bank data records that put USA as the second largest source of remittance - worth $10.96 billion - to India in 2015.

The ripple affect of "increased trade protectionism", according to Nomura could also impact Indian exports to the United States, including pharmaceuticals, textiles, gems and jewelry and auto products.

But Silicon Valley companies are also likely to be hurt as they have consistently relied on the program to hire highly-skilled workers and lobbied successive governments to ease restrictions.

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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, when asked about the H-1B plan at his briefing on Monday, confined himself to stating that H-1B and other visas are "part of a larger immigration reform effort that the President will continue to talk about through executive order and through working with the Congress". Some of these employees may feel challenged going for onshore assignments to the US.


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