Over 2,47,000 In­dian H1-B pe­ti­tions till June in 2017, down from over 3,00,000 in the pre­vi­ous year

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Jochelle.Men­donca@ times­group.com

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.

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