Bangalore: High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 is going to make things very difficult for Indian Information Technology industry. The $150 billion industry will be hit hard if the new legislation is approved and becomes the law.
Indian IT industry is mostly concerned with the H1B visa that is under review. Within a day after the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 was tabled in the Congress, top Indian companies had shed more than Rs 30000 at the stock market. It was mayhem of sorts and top companies including TCS, Infosys and Wipro were among the biggest victims.
The newly inaugurated President, Donald Trump, had promised during election campaign that he will stop the American jobs going abroad. And now there is every reason to believe that it will make it very difficult for expatriates to work in the US. The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, if passed, would mean significant changes in the way the H1B visas are granted to companies and allocated to employees by them.
It is quite clear, from the stock market reaction as to how badly the Indian IT companies will be impacted by the new H1B bill. Three biggest companies including Infosys, TCS, and Wipro will have to search for openings elsewhere.
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Reports suggest that American tech giants including Apple, Facebook and Google too are very concerned about the latest changes as it will also burden them substantially. Not just these tech giants, but many others recruit a large number of Indian IT workers are place them in the US. With such high salaries they will prefer to recruit American workers instead of going for Indian techies.
What is H1B visa?
India is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the H1B visa. H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies to employ foreigners for a period of up to six years. This visa is aimed at helping companies employ foreigners in positions for which they have been unable to find American employees. The minimum salary for an employee holding the H1B visa is set at $60,000 per year. H1B visa holders are allowed to apply for permanent residency in the US as well as buy or sell property in the country. Many such people tend to apply for Green Card and even get it rather easily.
Number of H1B Visas issued by the US
When it comes to numbers, as many as 65,000 H1B visas are issued by the US government. Besides around 20,000 are given to foreign students who have completed their masters course from a US university.
It is needless to say that H1B visas are seen as a direct source to riches for Indian IT workers. The money they get while working in the US and facilities that they get including educational facilities for their wards –that comes free of cost at school level – is unimaginable in India. Reports suggest that the government of the United States gets more H1B applications than the cap of 85,000; for example, 236,000 applications were sent for the H1B visas process in 2016, and the visas were granted on the basis of a lottery.
Donald Trump’s wife Melania Trump was able to enter the US thanks to H1B visa set aside for fashion models. He has spoken many a times about the need to stop US jobs going to foreigners.
Impact of changes
The new bill introduced in the US House of Representatives calls for doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to USD 130,000 from USD 60000 and giving preference to US nationals in offering jobs. The latest legislation, the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, introduced by California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren prioritises market based allocation of visas to those companies willing to pay 200 per cent of a wage calculated by survey, 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 USD 130,000.
Besides, the bill would require that employers first offer a vacant position to an equally or better qualified American worker before seeking an H-1B or L-1 visa holder. It would also establish wage requirements for L-1 workers and improve H-1B wage requirements to encourage companies to hire qualified American workers and prevent them from using foreign workers as a source of cheap labour. Under the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have additional oversight authority to investigate fraud and abuse as well as to increase penalties for companies that violate the bill’s requirements. The bill also requires DOL and DHS to share information so that visa petitions are effectively scrutinised. So things are going to be rather complicated for Indian IT companies and H1B visa aspirants.