Trump Administration accuses TCS, Infosys of Unfair Use of H1B visa program

A White House official accuses of TCS, Infosys, and Cognizant of misusing H1B visa program.

Washington (DC): A Trump administration official has accused the top Indian IT firms of getting the lion’s share of H1B visas unfairly in the lottery system.

The official at the White House briefing last week, explaining how the present lottery system works, said that a small number of Indian IT companies are top recipients of H1B visa. These companies are oftentimes called outsourcing firms, he said.

“You may know their names well, but like the top recipients of the H1B visa are companies like Tata, Infosys, and Cognizant,” the official said in the briefing published in the White House website.

He alleged that these IT companies apply for a very large number of visas, more than they get, by putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle to get the lion’s share. This is very different than how most people think of the H1B program, he said.

The White House briefing was held last week to give reporters background on an executive order “Hire American, Buy American,” which Donald Trump was to sign the coming day. The order directed the federal departments – justice, labor, Homeland Security, and State to review the present H1B visa program and come up with changes and recommendations to reform the program in such a way that favors a merit-based approach.

In his speech the next day, Donald Trump wanted the H1B visa program to be reformed into a merit-based system that prioritizes highly skilled workers, instead of the current lottery system, which gives equal chances to every applicant.

The official giving the background said that career employees working for 10, 20 years get laid off and the companies hire a contracting firm using H1B workers at much less pay.

The IT companies – TCS, Infosys, and Cognizant – haven’t yet responded to the comment made by the White House official, as per the reports.

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Indian IT Industry Should Have Prepared for H1B Changes: BJP Foreign Affairs In-Charge

With Trump or without Trump, these restrictions are to come, and Indian IT companies should have been prepared for this much longer. Unfortunately, it did not happen, says Vijay Chauthiawale.
Indian IT Industry Should Have Prepared for H1B Changes: BJP Foreign Affairs In-Charge

Washington: The BJP Foreign Affairs In-Charge Vijay Chauthiawale, who accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his trip to the US, said that Indian IT companies should have been prepared for the restrictions on the H1B visas a long time ago.

Chauthiawale participated in a program on Sunday, June 25, organized by Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies or FIIDS in Northern Virginia on the topic “Indo American Relations Under Trump and Modi Doctrine.”

The organization held the conference on the eve of the arrival of Narendra Modi at the US. Modi is scheduled to meet with American President Donald Trump on June 26 afternoon and the expectation among Indian IT companies and Indian diaspora in the US is that Modi would bring up the topic of H1B visa restrictions in his meeting with Trump.

When asked if Modi would bring up the issue, Chautiawale said that at present though there was only talk about the changes on H1B visa, but there was nothing on the ground.

With Trump or without Trump, these restrictions are to come, and Indian IT companies should have been prepared for this much longer. Unfortunately, it did not happen, he said.

“Even if it has a great impact in the short term, Indians have the agility and ability to overcome, and I don’t think there will be an impact in the long term,” he said.

Sadanand Dhume,  defense policy scholar at American Enterprise Institute, answering to the same question said that immigration is one of the most politically-charged issues for any democracy, and any other country wouldn’t be in a position to question on this matter.

“I think there would be changes to the H1B visa program, but the changes are not going to be vast and the Indian industry would find ways to adapt and come out of this,” he said.

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  1. June 26, 2017

    […] The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and 19 Public Sector banks disclosed this uncomfortable truth responding to an RTI application. The applicant Kush Karla, an advocate, approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) subsequently informing it of the contents of the response. He deposed that the RBI in its reply to his RTI application made it clear that it has not prescribed any parameters to assess the loss suffered by a customer.   More: Indian IT Industry Should Have Prepared for H1B Changes: BJP Foreign Affairs In-Charge […]

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Rich Indians Look At $500,000 Golden Visas, As H1B Tightens

As uncertainty glooms over the H1B visa reforms, Indians are exploring alternatives to achieve their American dreams.

Washington (D.C.): As the US tightens the rules on the H1B visa program and as uncertainty glooms over the reforms the Trump administration is planning to bring on the H1B visa program, Indians are exploring alternatives to achieve their American dreams.

Some Indian IT outsourcing companies have already announced their plans to hire more Americans going forward to reduce the dependency on the H1B program. Infosys has announced that the company would hire 10,000 Americans, with a goal of adding 2,000 employees by 2021. After Infosys, Cognizant came forward with its plan to create US jobs.

Indian IT companies are the gateways for many Indians to reach their American goals. With these companies beginning to close doors as a response to Trump’s immigration policy, Indians are now forced to look for alternatives.

While Indian middle class has not many options, but to depend on H1B visa or F1 visa, rich Indians look at the “Golden Visa,” a $500,000 US visa or EB5 Investment visa as an expensive alternative to H1B visa to achieve their American dream.

The visa, introduced in 1990 to create jobs and stimulate economy by foreign investment, is now showing a way to the wealthy community. The visa requires foreign nationals to invest in a qualified project in the US that creates 10 or more American jobs. The investors can then become eligible to apply for a Permanent Resident Card or Green Card.

While China currently secures 85 percent of the 10,000 EB5 visas awarded every year, more and more Indians are now turning toward it.

As per reports, on average, three Indians per week are using “Golden Visa” to invest their money into US projects and become eligible for Green Cards.

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Google Chairman Says H1B Visa Limit Is ‘Stupidest In The Entire American Policy’

Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt says that properly running a tech company is all about having the best people in the world.
Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt

Washington (D.C.): Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that a limit on H1B visa is the single stupidest policy in the entire American policy.

A serious argument is that a properly run tech company is really about having the best people in the world, Schmidt said in an event at MIT, where he was invited to talk about artificial intelligence and the future of technology.

“We want to have best people in the world regardless of sex, race or country, and we want them to work for us and not for our competitors,” he said.

Schmidt said that the stupid government policy that restricts hiring best people is not giving a fair chance of employment. He said the policy is antithetical to Google’s mission.

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that cracked down on the H1B visa abuses and directed the federal departments to come up with proposals to reform the H1B visa program to serve the merit-based approach.

Google ranks twelve among all the visa-sponsoring companies. Many tech companies, including Google have been opposing H1B visa restrictions and Trump’s travel ban on seven countries, imposed in the beginning of his presidency. The travel ban impacted about 200 Google employees. The company sent a letter asking those staff members to immediately return to the country.

Talking about the travel ban Schmidt said, “recently been trumped by the following… where you (Trump administration) take highly legal and highly effective technical people from 7 countries and trap them outside the country… until our lawyers can spring them out.”

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, who is an Indian American, is also outspoken about recent Trump’s executive order to restrict the H1B visa program. Google’s letter to its staff stated that the executive order signed by Trump would not impact Googlers. However, It also stated that the human resources would keep a close eye on the matter.

While the federal departments are working on the proposals, there is an uncertainty about how the changes to H1B visa program would impact the H1B visa holders. Some Indian outsourcing companies are already planning to hire Americans to be better prepared by reducing their dependency on H1B visa program.

However, the impacts on companies like Google and Facebook will not as much as that of Indian outsourcing companies. The impact is expected to be minimum, but the uncertainty still exists. Google hires skilled workers and the median salary is around $130,000, and the company’s requirements meet the H1B visa standards that Trump’s team reportedly want to impose on the program.

“We want one hundred percent market share of those people (best people),” Schmidt said. “We should organize our company to be the most attractive place for them.”

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What ‘Curbs On Foreign Workers’ Mean To Indian Middle Class?

With doors being shut on foreign workers around the world, Is Indian middle class facing a new inflection point?

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington (DC): Curbs on foreign workers have increased recently in many countries that once had open-heartedly welcomed talent from foreign lands. This shift is not sudden or haphazard, but a result of growing rejection for globalization, which had adverse effects on the people of these countries.

The US has tightened its H1B visa program. Australians have abolished their 457 visas, which allowed foreign workers to work on their land, saying, “Australians first.” New Zealand has put restrictions on its immigration system saying, “Kiwis First.” The UK has been making it difficult for foreign workers to get jobs after their education in the country.

According to the Hindustan Times, jobs in United Arab Emirates fell by around 33 percent in 2016. Low-skilled Indian workers emigrate to find work in manufacturing and oil production companies in the Arab countries. About 85 percent in the information technology jobs on H1B visas goes to Indians. All this means that there is going to be an impact on India, and especially on Indian middle class.

The threat of de-globalization

The restrictions on H1B visa in the US, for example, are not happening just because President Donald Trump is in power. He promised during the elections that he would curb the program, and he did so because people were looking for candidates who promised tougher policy against immigration.

There is a strong urge in the people to tighten the immigration system. Racism has not much role to play here. The Americans are desperate for jobs and they felt marginalized by the foreign workers who had an edge in technology and took advantage of or, at times, abused H1B visa program. They have seen jobs moving away from them. They were not anymore the beneficiaries of the economic growth the country has achieved in the past decade. The companies made money but little had trickled down to the bottom percentage of the country.

Technology has also taken away jobs from them. They had to update themselves, but even then the field was not leveled. Majority of the companies were giving contracts to Indian IT companies who in turn hire Indian labor for less pay in most cases or get projects done in India with less cost.

Trump’s campaign was based on delivering more jobs to Americans. After coming to the office, his inaction on immigration resulted in his low approval rating forcing him to sign an executive order directing the federal department to come up with recommendations to reform the H1B visa program to support merit-based approach.

This order will not cause any immediate problem to Indians working on H1B visas, but could pose a danger in the future. Trump has also cracked down on H1B visa abuses. One White House official has even named a few Indian IT companies that he alleged abused the program.

Opportunities in India

All those people who are unlucky with their visas or outside jobs will return to India or stay back in India in the future if the curbing trend continues. Many of them will be college graduates and looking for jobs in the country with their foreign prospects in jeopardy. They look for higher education and high-paying jobs. Indian Government should be in a position to provide quality higher education and show opportunities.

At present, higher education poses a great challenge to the Indian Government. There is not much infrastructure to provide quality education to those young Indians who have grown up with American dreams. Also, the government needs to focus on creating jobs, especially technology jobs.

With the outside doors shutting, Indian middle class also have to adapt and look out for new ways for its prosperity and growth.

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Arun Jaitley Raises H1B Visa Issue With US Commerce Secretary

Jaitley raised the H1B visa issue with the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and stressed the importance of Indian IT companies to both the economies.

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington (DC):Jaitley raised the H1B visa issue with the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and stressed the importance of Indian IT companies to both the economies. Stressing the importance of the role played by the Indian skilled labor in the US, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley brought up the H1B visa issue in his meeting with the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as per the reports.

Ross believed to have said that that Trump administration had asked the federal departments to review the H1B program and that they hadn’t made any decision on that yet. He reportedly said that the Trump administration wants to reform the H1B visa program to support a merit-based system.

The finance minister landed in Washington, D.C on Thursday morning, along with his delegation, to attend the meetings at International Monetary Fund and at the World Bank.

Jaitley taking the issue further believed to have stressed on the economic benefits both the countries had enjoyed because of the contributions of the IT companies and hoped it would continue.

The Trump administration has recently cracked down on the H1B visa abuses and signed an executive order directing the federal departments — Justice, Homeland Security, Labour and State — to review the program and come up with recommendations to use the program to allow only highly-skilled foreign workers.

The Indian IT companies depend a lot on H1B visa program and about 60 percent of the work comes from the US. The companies use the H1B visas to send their employees to the US to work on the projects, mostly to deal at the client’s end and coordinate between the US clients and the groups in India who implement the outsourced client’s work.

The companies will be impacted to some degree because of the tightening of the rules on the foreign workers.

Before heading back home, Jaitley will hold meetings with think tanks and Indian-American groups in the US.

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Trump signs “Buy American, Hire American” Order

Trump cracks down on H1B visa abuses and says that the lottery system should be replaced with the highest-paid applicants first system.

Washington: US President Donald Trump signed the executive order on Tuesday at around 3:30 PM that would crack down on the H1B visa abuses to allow only highly skilled foreign workers pass through the program.

“We believe jobs should be offered to American workers first,” Trump said before signing the order. “We are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first.”

Right now, widespread abuse in the immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by the workers brought in from other countries to fill in the same job for sometimes less pay, Trump said.

Speaking to the Snap-on company workers at Kenosha, Wisconsin, he said that American workers have long called for reforms to end these visa abuses, and today their calls have been answered for the first time.

Trump said that H1B visa reform is a long overdue. The program right now issues visas based on the lottery system and Trump said that the system was wrong and needs correction. Instead, he said the visas should be issued to highest-paid applicants, and never be used to replace an American worker.

Trump’s message was clear. He wanted the jobs to be given first to American workers, as he promised during the elections. Even as his 100-day presidency is nearing, there is not much for him to show as his accomplishments. Multiple judges have challenged his initial efforts toward travel ban. His approval rating has come down recently and people have grown suspicious of him.

It was important for him to re-establish trust in people especially from the states like Wisconsin. Standing amid the workers he said the historic action declares the policy of the Government to aggressively promote and use American goods and hire American workers to produce the goods.

Trump emphasized that federal departments should buy American products when they fund projects. He expressed concern that over the period, excessive waivers and reckless exemptions have gutted the American standards. The results have been, he said, countless jobs and contracts that were lost to cheap subsidized and low quality foreign goods.

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Trump To Sign Executive Order On H1B Visa Program

US President Donald Trump will sign an order directing federal departments to put forward reforms to hire only highly skilled foreign workers.

Washington(DC): US President Donald Trump will sign executive order on Tuesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, directing the federal departments to come up with changes needed in the temporary visa program to achieve the policy of “Hire American, Buy American.”

A press brief was held on Monday at the White House to give reporters a background on the executive order that Trump is expected to sign the next day.

The order has an additional clause on the H1B visa program, and calls on four departments – justice, labor, Homeland Security and State – to put forward reforms to see to it that H1B visas are rewarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants.

Trump has talked a lot in his election campaigns about his agenda of “American First,” and how foreign workers are replacing Americans in their jobs. His administration has recently announced that it would take necessary steps to deter and stop abuses and fraud happening in the H1B visa program by properly enforcing existing laws.

The present order will ask the federal departments to review and recommend changes required to efficiently handle the program such that only skilled foreign workers are hired and at the same time asking departments to enforce laws to stop H1B visa abuses.

“Right now, as you may know, H1B visas are awarded by random lottery. And many people will be surprised to know that about 80 percent of H1B workers are paid less than the median wage in their fields,” said the senior administration official in the brief.

The official said that only about 5 to 6 percent, depending on the year, of H1B workers command the highest wage tier recognized by the department of Labor, there being four wage tiers. And the highest wage tier, for instance, in 2015, was only 5 percent of the H1B workers, he said.

The official criticized the past administrations for failing to recognize that the problems with unenforced Buy American laws and then the unenforced Hire American laws.

Trump has changed the political landscape, he said. The president wants to represent working-class citizens who felt underrepresented by the political system, the official said.

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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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USCIS Announces New Initiative To Detect H1-B Visa Fraud

Washington DC: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 3 that it is taking a new initiative to detect and deter H1-B visa abuse and fraud.

The agency stated on its website that the H1-B visa program should help recruit highly skilled foreign nationals, when there is a shortage of qualified workers in America. Yet, there are too many America workers equally qualified and deserving jobs, USCIS stated.

The initiative will focus on targeted companies that have violated the rules of the program. USCIS members will visit with or without advanced notice to examine and investigate companies across the country.

The targeted approach will identify the companies that USCIS cannot validate the line of business of the employer through commercially available data. Also, those employers who have depended too much on H1-B visa and have a high ratio of H1-B workers compared to American workers.

USCIS also has provided email address for those who want to report any H1-B visa fraud happening in the country. The agency stated that it would help them identify employers for further investigation.

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Chicago Colleges Set Out to sponsor H1B Visas for Entrepreneurs

Washington, D.C.: Amid concerns over H1B visa reforms, and a probable executive order on revamping visa program, a few colleges in Chicago teamed up to sponsor international entrepreneurs.

On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the program launch. The colleges — Columbia College, DePaul University, The Illinois University of Technology, Loyola University, and Northwestern University — will collectively sponsor 10 to 20 entrepreneurs on H1B visas for the first year of the program.

The H1B visas will likely be exempted from the quota of 85,000 per year, as the educational institutions will be sponsoring these visas.

The slots will be filled with those entrepreneurs whose companies could create at least 150 jobs in the following three years.

“We want to see Chicago as a place where their ideas their dreams their companies can happen,” Emanuel said at a press conference, according to Chicago Tribune. “I believe this initiative…is saying yes to entrepreneurship, yes to talent, yes to diversity and most importantly, yes to the future of the city of Chicago.”

Shradha Agarwal, the co-founder of Outcome Health, who spoke at the event, recounted her years as H1B visa holder.

“The first year, I didn’t get the visa. We started making plans for what this meant for the company,” she said. “For the second time round, I did hit the lottery… but it shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t be held to such uncertainty.”

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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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USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for H1-B Visas Temporarily

Washington DC: The USCIS has temporarily stopped premium processing of H1-B visas starting from April 3, 2017. The suspension may last for up to six months.

Any submission for premium processing after that date will be rejected, according to USCIC or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The USCIS stated that it has taken this step to improve the overall performance of the processing. It stated that it would allow the staff to work on the long-pending petitions and decrease the processing time for all the petitions.

However, the services has introduced “Expedited Processing” that will allow any petitioners who have a need to obtain H1-B visa to apply, but they will have to qualify for this kind of processing.

The USCIS website has outlined the criteria required to apply for the processing. The petitioner has to qualify in any one of these criteria to become eligible to apply. The suspension can be found here on its website.

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US Indian Communities Panic Over H1B Visa Reform

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington: Chaos and confusion have donned on the Indian communities in the United States after Trump had signed the executive order on immigration banning seven Muslim countries. The communities, especially the techies, have become anxious about the possibility of Trump signing another order on H-1B visa program.

Adding to the heat, the news of a bill that was introduced in the House of Representative on January 24th by Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren regarding the amendment of H-1B and L-1 visa program made the H-1B community jittery.

President Donald Trump has promised during the election campaign that he would amend the H-1B visa – increase the minimum wage on H-1B from $60,000 to $100,000, and limit the number of visas issued annually. As he intends to fulfill his election promises one by one, the H-1B visa holders fear that he would soon get to amend the visa program. Whether Trump waits for the Congress to act upon the amendment proposal or uses his executive order is the question that is making many visa holders restless. 

The White House is already facing a lot of pressure on the executive order Trump has signed recently on immigration. The House has defended by saying that the ban is not a ban, but an improvement to the existing vetting process. At this time, will they be willing to go for another executive order that is going to impact and disrupt many lives? Only Trump and his team may have an answer to this question at this time.

However, the president may also choose to wait and support the Congress to amend the visa program and make it a law. There are already a few bills in the Congress introduced and proposed by many Congressmen.

Potential Impact Unnerves H-1B Holders

The impact on visa community depends on which path the amendments take place. If Donald Trump uses executive order, the impact is hard to imagine. Going by his election promise, the minimum wage for H1B holder would raise to $100,000.

However, if the Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017introduced by Zoe Lofgren, shapes into a law, the minimum wage rises to $130,000, which is more than double the current wage requirement to exempt from non-displacement and attestation, creating a massive impact.

According to Lofgren, any such increase in wages remove the “per country” cap for employment based immigrant visas and allows employers to seek out best around the world.

Another bill introduced by Republican representative from California Darrell Issa on January 4th, might also see light, which could amend visa program, but not as aggressively as the bill by Lofgren.

Indian IT Companies Most Affected

Indian outsourcing companies are the most affected by the potential dangers of the amendments than the technology giants, such as Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, where the wages are relatively higher than that of Indian IT companies.

Infosys, Wipro, and Tata Services, take the maximum hit by the amendments, the stocks of which have already fallen by about 9 percent. According to The Economic Times the companies are already looking at Chinese markets.

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