Over 2,47,000 Indian H1-B petitions till June in 2017, down from over 3,00,000 in the previous year
Bengaluru: Technology outsourcing companies are seeking fewer work visas from the Unites States government as there has been a decline in the number of petitions filed this year, data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services showed. The administration, in turn, has approved less than 59% of H1-B visa applications as sentiment against foreign workers turns negative in the world’s largest market for technology outsourcing.
This year, the American government received over 3,36,000 petitions for H1-B visas, both extensions and new applications, and approved about 1,97,129 till the end of June. “They have become stricter and are asking for more supporting documentation,” said an executive at an Indian IT outsourcing company who declined to be identified. He estimates the final number of visa applications may not be “dramatically lower”, but said “Indian IT
companies have already started to reduce their visa requests.”
In an interview to wire service Bloomberg, USCIS spokeswoman Katie Tichacek said more approvals could happen as the year progresses, (as) many of this year’s petitions are pending. Last year, the US got nearly 4 lakh petitions and granted visas to nearly 3.5 lakh applicants.
Indian IT companies, one of the biggest users of the work visa, have been cutting back as protectionist rhetoric grows in their major market. Wipro went so far as to name US President Donald Trump has a risk factor. Indians filed fewer H1-B petitions, the data showed. There were over 2,47,000 petitions from Indians in 2017, down from over 3,00,000 in the previous year. Over 2.1 million Indians have filed an H1-B petition since 2007. Typically, software engineers apply under the general category for H1-B visa. The US grants about 65,000 visas for this category and allows a further 20,000 people who have a US master’s degree from an accredited institution to also apply.
Median wages also increased in 2017, the data showed. The median H1-B wage was $83,230 in 2017, up from $80,000 in 2016
Median wages also increased in 2017, the data showed. The median H1-B wage was $83,230 in 2017, up from $80,000 in 2016. The average H1-B wage in 2017 was $92,317.
US senators have presented bills to increase the minimum wage on H1-B visas to as much as $1,30,000 and have looked at issuing visas based on the salary offered, instead of a lottery.
To overcome these hurdles, Indian IT companies are also boosting their hiring onshore. Infosys said it would hire 10,000 in the US over this financial year and the next. Wipro said it has over 14,000 employees in the US, over half of them locals. Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant have both said they will accelerate hiring onshore.
Analysts have pointed out that the need to hire onshore and the need to pay higher wages could shave as much as 400 basis points off from the profits of Indian IT companies. With clients increasingly opting for automation and lower prices, IT companies are unlikely to be able to pass on their costs.
In April, USCIS released a policy memo that said computer programmers will not be eligible for H-1B visas by default and will have to justify being considered for “specialty occupation.” It added it would undertake site visits across the US to prevent “fraud and abuse” of the visa programme.
IT companies have been hoping that by hiring onshore and boosting engagement in the US, they can escape far more restrictive rules.
“America is in a state of flux. There are so many problems unleashed in the US that we may escape his (Trump’s) direct wrath," said Tech Mahindra vice-chairman Vineet Nayyar.