Lofgren's H1B reform bill hits Indian IT

Carlos Barria  Reuters
Carlos Barria Reuters
Author

02 February, 2017

The legislation sets aside 20 percent of the annually allocated H-1B visas for small and start-up employers (50 or fewer employers) to ensure small businesses have an opportunity to compete for high-skilled workers, while still protecting against outsourcing.

United States President Donald Trump and his administration have drafted an executive order that intends to overhaul the work-visa programs that various technology companies - including Apple - rely on to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.

"Immigrant STEM workers have contributed an outsize share to founding new companies, getting patents, and helping build up American companies, which in turn due to their success have created tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs", said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who does research in labor markets.

What is H-1B visa?

"Depending on the companies, they could easily witness around 60-70 percent rise in the salaries of the H-1B visa dependent workforce and hence have significant impact on the net profit of the companies", it added.

Founder president of Telangana IT Association (TITA), Sundeep Kumar Maktala, said that all 1,280 major and medium IT firms from Hyderabad were offering H1-B visas to their employees to work in the US.

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For those who have been following Trump before and after his election, reforming H-1B and the other visa programs should not come as a surprise.

The Donald Trump -led US Government tabled the new H1-B Bill in the US House of Representatives and it is already giving jitters to the Indian IT sector.

The bottom line is that there have been vociferous arguments both for and against the visa programs since they began. "H-1B workers at outsourcing firms often receive wages at or slightly above $60,000, below what skilled American technology professionals tend to earn, so those firms can offer services to American companies at a lower cost, undercutting American workers", the report states. In some cases, American employees have alleged that they were made to train H-1B holders to do their own jobs, and then fired.

For young Indian software engineers and IT graduates, H-1B visa is the ticket to America and fulfilment of their dreams to reside in a "developed nation".

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, introducing the bill, said it would stop companies "replacing" American workers.

Some tech media websites, closely following the changes that the Trump Administration and the US Congress may bring about, speak of the possibility of a reversal of employment authorisation cards to spouses of H-1B workers, which was recently granted by the Obama Administration after a prolonged campaign. The Labor Department says about half of its H-1B certifications are for those three occupations. "The effect will be more in terms of how many visas are to be issued and how companies frame their approach towards H-1B workers", he told DH. Companies must affirm that the job requires a specialty skill that can not be filled by a US worker. The new visa reform bill also eliminates the category of lowest pay, and raises the salary level at which H-1B dependent employer are exempt from non-displacement and recruitment attestation requirements to greater than $130,000.


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