Indian IT Group Spends Rs 2.8 Crores on H1B Visa Lobbying

A software advocacy group spends nearly Rs 2.8 crore to safeguard the interests of the Indian IT industry in the US.

VENKAT KONDUBHATLA

Washington: A software lobby group, NASSCOM or National Association of Software and Services Companies, spent nearly Rs 2.8 crore in 2016 to lobby with the US Congress against the tightening of the H1B Visa norms, according to the opensecrets.org.

The amount spent is the highest since 2003, when the body lobbied for more liberal rules for Indian engineers.

The IT industry has been facing challenges from factors, such as the tightening of H1B visas, growth of artificial intelligence, and automation.

Since Donald Trump took office, the overall IT stocks have fallen by about 3 percent. The IT industry is worth about $108 billion with more than 1,000 companies and contributes about 9.5 percent to the Indian GDP.

The tightening of H1B visa norms is the major cause for the drop in the IT stocks. The cancellation of premium processing of H1B visas, initiatives to deter visa abuse and visa reform proposals introduced in the US Congress have caused worries in the IT companies, many of which depend on the H1B visa program that allows foreign workers to work in the United States.

Trump, who wanted to restrict the H1B visa program to hire only skilled workers, has reportedly shown interest in a bill introduced in the Congress that proposed a salary hike of H1B visa holders from $60,000 to $130,000. This bill if passed and became law would be a major blow to the IT industry and especially to those that employ minimum to zero American employees in the United States.

However, many Indian IT leaders show optimism in the face of H1B reforms. They believe that the industry will eventually come out with flying colors. They say that the industry had absorbed many changes in the past and this would just be one more of them.

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Indian IT Industry Bullish Even With H1B Visa Reform

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington, D.C.: Many Indian IT firms show optimism that things are going to be fine in the long run for their businesses in the face of probable H1B Visa reform.

The reform may temporarily affect the industry, but once sustained many technology heads believe that firms would also find opportunities with the changing environments. For a short term however, the firms may have to adapt new ways due to growing nationalism in the west, especially the US and the UK, and the tendency toward de-globalization.

The mere possibility of H1B visa reform has resulted in about a hundred thousand crore drop in combined Indian IT market cap, pushing IT giants to pressure Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press on the United States for a balanced view on H1B visas.

With over 1,000 global IT firms, India exports about $108 billion worth of IT revenue, out of which $61 billion belongs to IT services. In 2015, IT sector contributed to about 9.5 percent of Indian GDP.

Trump administration’s “Buy American Hire American” policy has made many IT firms worrisome. The recent suspension of H1-B visa premium processing has become a concern for many companies, as they have to wait to fill any urgent positions, which is a common practice in many IT firms, such as Wipro and Infosys.

The pending H1B visa reform bill that proposes minimum salary hike from $60,000 to $130,000 for H1B holders is another concern in terms of cost for these firms.

Nascomm, a software lobby group, along with US-India Business Counsel, a business advocacy group, have been actively pursuing with top US IT companies, like Google and Facebook, to press on Trump administration to minimize the restrictions on the foreign engineers.

The industry has absorbed many changes in the past and kept growing. It will come out of these problems as well eventually. On the brighter side though, the demand for professionals in the US is ever growing, and Trump knows that more restrictions on foreign professionals is not good for US economy.

There are 2.4 million positions open today, and they are unable to fill them, Mukesh Aghi, USIBC President, told Nascomm in an interview, referring to US jobs.

Every year the US requires 120,000 STEM workers. It has only 40,000 graduating students, and 50 percent of them are international students, Aghi said. These workers have backgrounds in science and engineering.

Adding to these jobs is the benefit in the long term that the firms may end up enjoying due to the increased volume of software services, created by the growing nationalism and de-globalization.

Trump focus on bringing back jobs and infrastructure projects would eventually boost the demand for more IT services in the US. And since the Indian IT firms already share the processes with their clients, it would be easy to snag them as well.

But in case of H1B reform, major firms would cope easily compared to the smaller ones in the industry who may have to even struggle to survive.

 

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