In­di­ans on H-1B De­lay Home Visits

In­dian pros in the US are de­fer­ring or can­celling travel plans to In­dia for fear of not get­ting re-en­try

The Economic Times - - Brands & Companies -

So­bia Khan & Anu­meha Chaturvedi

Ben­galuru | New Delhi: An IT prod­uct man­ager for a forex mar­ket trader, Saurabh Tan­don (name changed), moved to Cu­per­tino three years ago with his wife and chil­dren in tow chas­ing the Amer­i­can dream. His em­ployer has de­layed his green card pro­cess­ing, and he is not as sure about his de­ci­sion as he used to be. He can­celled his much awaited sum­mer trip to In­dia this June.

“Things are not good. Most of us in our com­pany and around us are ner­vous, to say the least. I might have to come back to In­dia for good, if things re­main the way they are. One can’t live in un­cer­tainty. I have post­poned the In­dia trip till things iron out ei­ther way,” he said. Like Tan­don, many In­di­ans on work­ing visa in the United States are can­celling or post­pon­ing their trips to In­dia in the fear that they may not be al­lowed back in the coun­try. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ex­pected to over­haul the work visa pro­grammes like the H-1B and L1. The H-1B is a non­im­mi­grant visa that al­lows Amer­i­can em­ploy­ers to tem­po­rar­ily em­ploy foreign work­ers in spe­cial­ity oc­cu­pa­tions. Most In­dian IT pro­fes­sion­als in the US are on H-1B visas.

Last month a bill in­tro­duced in the US Congress sought to more-than-dou­ble the min­i­mum salary of H-1B visa hold­ers to $130,000. The cur­rent H-1B min­i­mum wage of $60,000 was fixed in 1989 and been un­changed since.

The US has a ma­jor skill mis­match and In­dian IT firms help in bridg­ing this gap. As per the US De­part­ment of La­bor, there will be 2.4 mil­lion un­skilled STEM (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing, and Maths) jobs by 2018. Of this over 50% will be in the com­puter and IT re­lated area.

The move will sig­nifi- cantly in­crease costs for IT com­pa­nies, whose mar­gins are al­ready squeezed. Ac­cord­ing to IT lobby body Nasscom, In­dian IT firms earn 65% of their $155 bil­lion rev­enue from the US. “I had planned to visit my family back in In­dia af­ter two years. But now have to de­lay that as there is lot of un­cer­tain­ties about H-1B visa,” said Mansi Dev a soft­ware pro­fes­sional with an MNC in US. “No one wants to take any chances. I'm aware of peo­ple who are can­celling their trips even at the risk of los­ing money spent on air tick­ets and reser­va­tions,” said a Sil­i­con Val­ley pro­fes­sional. “Some peo­ple on H-1B work visa went for a visa re-stamp af­ter three years. Their stamp­ing is put on hold for ad­min­is­tra­tive rea­sons and no time­line was given. This could take any­thing between two weeks to six months. They have bought houses here. The kids need to start school. Hence, they are can­celling plans to move out of the coun­try,” added an­other In­dian pro­fes­sional. “Those on visas are not tak­ing any chances. They are post­pon­ing their pro­grammes. Even if it is ex­tremely nec­es­sary, fam­i­lies are not com­ing. One per­son comes and the oth­ers are stay­ing back. I hope there is a so­lu­tion to this soon,” said Sub­hash Goyal, chair­man of the avi­a­tion and tourism com­mit­tee at the In­dian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try. “It could be a short-term panic re­ac­tion and peo­ple are not tak­ing chances. I don’t ex­pect things to take a turn for the worse. There have been a few se­lec­tive coun­tries that have been iden­ti­fied as po­ten­tial ter­ror threats and In­dia is not one of them. They have hinted at a pos­si­bil­ity that in fu­ture, H-1B visas might get re­stricted but that’s about it,” said Shiv Agrawal, MD, ABC Con­sul­tants. A del­e­ga­tion of In­dian IT lobby firm Nasscom is in Washington DC to en­gage with mem­bers of the US ad­min­is­tra­tion on is­sues in­clud­ing clam­p­down on work visas and flow of skilled man­power between the two coun­tries. In­dian IT in­dus­try has cre­ated 1.55 lakh jobs in the US. Global tech gi­ants in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft chief Satya Nadella, Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai, Ap­ple’s Tim Cook and oth­ers have voiced their ap­pre­hen­sion on the is­sue.

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